Sunday, November 23, 2014

Police use taser on Key West reporter

 Citizen Reporter Arrested for threatening waitress

Longtime Citizen staff writer Terry Schmida was arrested early Saturday morning on allegations he attempted to run over a restaurant waitress with his car after failing to pay a $9 bill, according to Key West police.

Schmida, 45, of the 3300 block of Duck Avenue, faces charges of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, misdemeanor DUI and misdemeanor petty theft.

There was no indication in two arrest affidavits released that the waitress was seriously injured, but the reports did note she feared for her life during the incident.

Those reports written by Key West police officers and later released by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office also allege Schmida tried to bite an officer, and he was placed in a restraint chair after being shocked with a Taser and pepper sprayed while being booked into jail.

Officers described the incident this way:

Schmida was at Denny's, 925 Duval St., at 2 a.m. when a waitress reported it appeared he was attempting to walk out without paying a $9.23 bill. He was stopped at the register and "fumbled" through some papers in his pockets before an employee helped him find his driver's license and a $5 bill -- both of which he left inside the restaurant. He then went outside to his car in an effort to find a credit or debit card to cover the rest of the bill. The female employee at the register followed him, writing down his license tag number. The employee reportedly asked Schmida if he should be driving, and he allegedly replied, "No, but I'm going home."

When Schmida couldn't find a credit or debit card in his car, the employee asked him to come back inside and to call a friend to help him pay the bill, or she would be forced to call police. Schmida reportedly refused and stated, "She wouldn't like what happened if she called police."

Another female employee came outside to help when Schmida started his car and attempted to leave. One of the two employees was in front of his car at that time, and Schmida allegedly began "tapping the accelerator and pushing her with his car," reports state.

At one point, the employee was pushed with "enough force that her feet were no longer on the ground and all her body weight was on the hood of the car." She then jumped out of the way "for fear she was going to be run over," reports state.

The other employee outside captured the incident with her cell phone, which police placed into evidence. She also told police it appeared Schmida was "barely able to stand" during the incident.

Schmida was later stopped on Flagler Avenue at Government Road after an officer saw his car and began following him, noting that the car was "straddling the center line," according to reports.

Schmida reportedly stopped in the roadway when the officer activated his blue lights before "accelerating" and then stopping in the parking lane.

While inside his car, Schmida reportedly "searched the owner's manual, cover to cover, several times for no reason and attempted to turn on the car's stereo system while the car's ignition was off."

Officers noted he also allegedly "attempted to roll up and down the car's electric windows, again attempted to manipulate the car's stereo and fumble with the driver side interior door handle and lock," reports state.

Officers also wrote that Schmida appeared unaware that he had left his driver's license at the restaurant.

Schmida appeared unable to focus on stationary objects, had trouble balancing, had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol, reports state.

He told officers he had a medical condition, but that it didn't hinder him from performing field sobriety tests.

"As Schmida performed the exercise, it appeared he mimicked the stance of 'The Karate Kid,'" the officer wrote in reference the 1980s martial arts movie. At one point, Schmida also reportedly asked officers to not arrest him, to let him leave his car at the scene and to drive him home, reports state.

A Denny's manager then arrived with police and identified Schmida as the suspect who left the restaurant without completing payment, reports state.

Schmida was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island and placed in the DUI room, where he allegedly "began to yell vulgar obscenities toward me and that he was intending on planning on impacting my career in a negative manner," the arresting officer wrote. "Schmida then tried to bite my hand or the implied consent card I was holding."

Schmida reportedly declined to give a breath sample, and when turned over to detention deputies, he physically resisted them to the extent they used a Taser and pepper spray. They also placed him in a restraint chair, reports state.

Schmida remained in Monroe County Detention Center Saturday night under no bail. His first court date was scheduled for Dec. 4 before county Judge Peary Fowler.

Schmida writes about public and private Florida Keys schools as well as the Monroe County School Board and nonprofit organizations.