Saturday, March 29, 2008

Skater Teen Tasered at McDonalds @ Hwy 12 & Verano in Sonoma

Sonoma Index Tribune version of the story

According to the comment section, the McDonalds is the one here in Sonoma at Verano Avenue.

The Press Democrat didn't specify which McDonalds on Hwy 12. It could have been in Santa Rosa or Sonoma. Who knows?

Tasered teen says deputy got wrong guy

Skateboarder, friends say he was trying to stop fight, not attack McDonald's worker

March 29, 2008


James Moffitt said he was just trying to satisfy his hunger when he headed to a McDonald's restaurant Tuesday and ended up shot with a stun gun and arrested in what he and several friends say was a clear case of mistaken identity.

But the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said a deputy saw Moffitt, 19, swing his skateboard at a McDonald's employee during a melee that erupted when another skater, Jon McCann, allegedly clashed with restaurant personnel.

Moffitt and his friends say even the store manager ran forward to alert the deputy that he'd stunned the wrong man and that the deputy blanched at the news -- a claim authorities dispute.

McDonald's employees aren't talking. But Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Pedersen said the altercation at the Highway 12 eatery actually resulted in several fights, leading to two arrests.

Now both the skaters face prosecution for suspected assault with a deadly weapon -- their skateboards -- a felony that could lead to a sentence of up to four years in prison.

Moffitt also was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of being drunk in public and resisting arrest. He had yet to be formally charged Friday.

"I really feel strongly about this," said Moffitt, who earns a living circulating petitions. "I shouldn't have these charges on me, and I wasn't even a part of the situation."

The incident began when McCann tried to exit McDonald's through a broken door. McCann, 18, apparently didn't realize the door wasn't working, said Andrea Caudill, an acquaintance who was there.

But he finally exited another door and was accosted by several employees, including one who ultimately punched him twice, she and others said.

Moffitt and Perry approached in time to see the argument and were standing with Caudill and others trying to get the name of the worker when they realized McCann had run around the building and back inside.

Caudill said she saw McCann swing his skateboard toward a worker but stopped when a female employee stepped between them.

She said she and the others quickly pushed their way inside, where Moffitt started yelling at McCann to back off.

Moffitt, his girlfriend and four friends who witnessed all or part of the event said Moffitt did nothing but try to coax the other skater to stop fighting and get out of the restaurant.

Meanwhile, a 911 call got disconnected, although the dispatcher could hear chaotic yelling in the background, Sheriff's Lt. Scott Dunn said.

The 8:18 p.m. call was followed by additional, unsuccessful attempts by a dispatcher to get someone at McDonald's on the line, adding to the impression of a major disruption, Dunn said.

Deputy Brian Keen, a four-year department veteran, was parked across the street when the call was dispatched, Dunn said.

Within seconds, authorities said, he was at the door and watched through a window as Moffitt swung his own skateboard toward a female employee -- a charge Moffitt and his friends flatly deny.

Moffitt, meanwhile, had his back turned when Keen told him to freeze and get on the floor, witnesses said.

They said he dropped his skateboard and was putting up his hands when Keen hit the Taser trigger, sending Taser barbs into Moffitt's back.

McCann eventually was arrested and booked into the county jail, where he remained Friday with bail set at $31,000. He declined a request for an interview.

Moffitt said he endured a painful two hours handcuffed with Taser barbs in his back, a large part of it in the back of a squad car at the Sonoma Valley substation.

Moffitt conceded he was high on marijuana, which he says he uses with a doctor's recommendation for anxiety, but he denied allegations that he'd been drinking.

McDonald's personnel have been prohibited from speaking about the event, and corporate representatives said they could not comment on a matter under investigation by police.

Franchisee Steven Eng said through a corporate spokeswoman that a separate, in-house investigation into the fracas is under way.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or

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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.