Friday, August 17, 2007

French Fry Grease Helps Nab Thief

French Fry Grease Helps Nab Thief

Teen tries to rob the wrong food stand at Wyalusing carnival, police and owner say.

August 16, 2007

By George Osgood
Star-Gazette Wellsboro Bureau

WYALUSING -- There are all kind of non-lethal, high-tech ways to apprehend suspected criminals these days: Tasers, shotgun-propelled beanbags, pepper spray, stun guns, flash-bang grenades, even ultra-quick-drying epoxy.

Now you can add another one, though perhaps not so high-tech: greasy french fries.

At least that was the weapon of choice when a 17-year-old from Lake Winola, near Clarks Summit, tried to run off with the cash box from the french fry concession at the Wyalusing Firemen's Carnival Tuesday night, police said.

Thanks to quick action and an "instinctive" heave by Marvin Meteer, a retired English teacher, the bold juvenile ended up in handcuffs instead of a getaway car. It's also a good example proving once again the adage that booze and fries don't mix.

Meteer tells it this way.

"Tuesday is the first night of our Firemen's Carnival," said Meteer, who, though he is not a firefighter, runs the fry booth with wife Maxine, daughter Melissa and several friends.

"This was close to 10 o'clock," he said. "We had been really busy for hours, but things had started to taper off. Normally, we sell a ton of french fries. But business was dwindling. A guy had come up to the stand and just kind of stood there," Meteer said. "Our helpers had gone, so it was just my wife and me and Melissa. She asked him if he wanted anything, and he said he was just thinking."

He left. Maxine was talking with the carnival manager, and the youth returned, accompanied by another boy this time.

"They didn't stand together, though," Meteer said. "The other guy just stood off to the side. And she asked him again if there was something she could get him, and he said, 'Yeah. I'll take an order of pierogis.' She said, 'Well, we don't have pierogis here. That's another booth.' The other guy said he would take an order of cheese fries.

"So she gets the cheese fries for him, and I'm looking at this other guy from the back of the tent, and I'm thinking, 'What does he want?'

"All of a sudden, quick as a flash, he ducks under the front counter and slams his hands down on the cash box and takes off to the side," Meteer said.

Melissa tried for a handful of shirt, but the youth was big and strong, "really rugged," Meteer said.

"I think he intended to go out an opening in the back of our booth, and I was headed around that way," Meteer said. "So instead of going out that way, he went to duck under the back counter and when he did that, I don't know, it was just an instinctive thing. I took one of the baskets we cook our fries in and I threw the fries at him, but not the basket.

"So anyway, he had the cash box at that point, and when he came up on the other side of the counter is when the fries rained down on him," Meteer said. "He hit those fries and they were just greasy enough that he started to slip and slide, and that gave me enough time to get around the end of the counter and a couple of guys who were there began wrestling him to the ground."

The youth threw the cash box. Maxine scooped it up. And began screaming.

"That was exactly the right thing to do," Meteer said. "That got the attention of many people. A lot of people came running, thinking that maybe one of the fryers had blown up and I had gotten burned. We all worked together and wrestled this guy to the ground and pinned him there. The first thing he said was, 'It wasn't me. I didn't do it.' I just said, 'Right.'"

Cheese-fry-guy had parked a car just behind the fry booth and waited there with the passenger door open, police said. When his buddy went down, he took off. A bystander got his license number, but no charges had been filed against him Wednesday.

The 17-year-old smelled of alcohol (and fries). The fire company president called state police.

"The guy said, 'My friend talked me into it, and I'm just a blankety-blank,'" Meteer said. "It was an interesting evening."

When State Trooper Brian W. Atherholt arrived, the crowd applauded. He handcuffed the youth and searched him, then took him away, embarrassed, in trouble and greasy. But it could have been worse.

He could have tried to rob the pierogi stand.

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