A Mississippi county prosecutor is under fire after she said she hoped "the deadly strain" of Covid 19 would spread among George Floyd rioters around the US.
A local asked on social media: "Does Covid spread during massive street riots or just in bars and restaurants? Asking for a friend."
Hancock, who is the second-term prosecutor of Madison County, then responded, writing: "We can only hope the deadly (coronavirus) strain spreads in riots!"
She has since deleted her comment but has defended her stance, saying it's her job to punish all crimes.
"My job is to prosecute all crimes, including civil disobedience," Hancock told Mississippi Today.
"I'm against any breach of peace or criminal activity, and I would prosecute it. I have nothing against people peacefully protesting, but breaking into businesses and stealing things is a crime."
But when asked about her "hope" that the virus would kill rioters, she backtracked and said it was "a joke" and doesn't want anyone to die.
"I was really just making light of it. I was not serious about wanting anyone to die. That's not who I am.
"The post was kind of a joke, and I was attempting to joke back. Obviously, I did it very poorly. If you ask anybody that knows me, I don't hold any ill will towards anyone or any group. I only try to be fair."
Brandon Jones, policy director at the Southern Poverty Law Centre in Jackson, told the outlet that prosecutors should "be reflective about how we talk about these issues", and Hancock's post "sends all the wrong messages".
"We worry when people like Ms Hancock say these things because of what message it might send to people who might have to face her in court," he said. "It erodes the public's trust that they're going to be treated fairly with comments like this, even if they were in jest."
Protests and riots have escalated across the US after black man George Floyd died in police custody.
The attorney for George Floyd's family says a family-commissioned autopsy shows Floyd died of "asphyxia due to neck and back compression".
Floyd, who was in handcuffs at the time, died after the white officer ignored bystander shouts to get off him and Floyd's cries that he couldn't breathe.
According to prosecutors, preliminary findings from an official autopsy last week said the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd's system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death.