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Pasco pizza workers tackle, restrain masked intruder

NEW PORT RICHEY — Daniel Mendelsohn Jr. was working in the kitchen at Morty's Pizza on Sunday night when a masked man popped in through the back door, stared down Mendelsohn and went straight for the cash register.

Mendelsohn, 19, followed the intruder, who popped open the cash drawer and grabbed a fistful of bills.

"Then," Mendelsohn said in an interview Monday, "he turned around and shocked me."

According to Mendelsohn and a sheriff's incident report, the robber was armed with a stun gun, which he shoved at Mendelsohn's chest and deployed.

Mendelsohn said he was stunned for a moment or two, but then he reached under the counter and grabbed a stun gun that the restaurant keeps there for safety.

"I shocked him back," he said.

The robber, dropping money along the way, staggered back toward the back door. Another employee, Daniel Lane, pushed a cart into his path, slowing him down, the report says. That gave Lane time to tackle the intruder, and the two went tumbling down a ramp and out the door. In the scuffle, Lane broke a hand. Mendelsohn caught up and helped restrain the man.

"It was crazy, kicking everywhere," he said. "We were rolling around in the dirt for a little bit, and we managed to get him down."

Mendelsohn works the occasional shift at the pizza place to help out the owners, who are family friends. He doesn't take any pay.

With the robber still squirming beneath them, he reached into his pocket and grabbed his cell phone to call 911.

He said deputies arrived quickly. They arrested Alexander Dennis Piller, 20, of 5518 River Road. He used to work at the pizza shop, the report says. He never reported for his shift last Friday. When he returned Sunday night, it was just before closing time and there were no customers inside, Mendelsohn said.

Piller told a deputy he had been partying and ran out of money for alcohol and drugs, the report says.

He is charged with armed robbery and two counts of aggravated battery.

He remained in the Pasco County jail Monday in lieu of $70,000 bail.

It's not illegal for civilians to carry Tasers and other stun guns, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll.

"How they use them is where the problems come into play," he said.

Mendelsohn said when he got home, he discovered a red burn mark on his chest from the electrical jolt.

"I'm still really shaken," he said. "I've never been through anything like that in my life."

He added: "I hate thieves."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco pizza workers tackle, restrain masked intruder 01/05/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 11:22am]
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