ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - A homeless Clearwater man has been arrested after allegedly assaulting two fast food clerks in a fight over straws, then trying to rob a gas station down the street.
Footage recorded by another customer shows a man -- later identified by police as Daniel Taylor -- reaching across the counter of a McDonald’s on 34th Street South in St. Pete on New Year’s Eve. He grabs a young female clerk by the collar and pulls her over to him, but she lands several blows to his face and arms before another employee separates them.
"I was thinking that she had to do what she was doing," offered Brenda Biandudi, who shot the now-viral video. "She is a petite girl and I just felt she did the right thing."
The clerk was not hurt, but the arrest affidavit says Taylor injured a second clerk by kicking her in the stomach as he was being escorted out.
"I want her [expletive] fired," Taylor can be heard yelling after the altercation.
"No, you're going to jail," the first clerk responds.
Moments later, police say, they received a call about an unarmed robbery from a gas station two miles north. When the officers arrived, they recognized Taylor from the video at McDonald's and took him into custody.
The 40-year-old, who's listed in arrest records as homeless, is now in jail on two charges of battery. Officers noted that he appeared to be intoxicated at the time of his arrest.
Biandudi told FOX 13 that the fight began because Taylor demanded a straw.
"He didn't see any drinking straws so he yelled out to the employees he needs a straw -- 'Looks like somebody's not doing their job up in here!'" Biandudi recalled him bellowing. "The young lady behind the counter told him that it's the law now: 'We are not allowed to have straws in the lobby but you can request one.'"
Plastic straws are a big issue in St. Pete. Last month, the city council voted to ban single-use straws completely in 2020. Starting in 2019, however, restaurants and other businesses can only give straws by request.
The two employees were not permitted to comment on-camera, but are doing OK and both kept their jobs. A statement from McDonald’s said, "Our highest priority is always the safety and well-being of our employees and customers at our restaurants. We have been in contact with the police department and are fully cooperating with their investigation."