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He just wanted chicken but got the cops

Michael Anderson says all he wanted was a little chicken. So he visited a Church's Chicken in St. Petersburg in August looking for some food.

He said they owed him two meals because the restaurant had earlier messed up his order, and he had a receipt in a pouch to prove it.

Instead, he was handcuffed, surrounded by police with guns drawn and accused of trying to rob the place.

But Anderson, 46, of St. Petersburg was not a crook trying to rob anyone, St. Petersburg police confirmed.

Anderson said he was humiliated.

On Friday, Anderson sued in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, seeking damages in excess of $15,000, alleging Church's employees falsely told police he was robbing the restaurant. The suit calls Church's behavior "unjustified, extreme and outrageous."

The owners of the restaurant at 3510 Central Ave. did not return a call for comment.

"I could have been hurt by police," Anderson said. "I just want to know why (Church's) did this to me. Money would be great. Now I've got to get myself some kind of therapy."

Attorneys David Sockol and John Trevena filed an amended suit, replacing one Anderson filed without the assistance of attorneys.

After Anderson entered the restaurant, the suit says, a worker hit a silent alarm button indicating a robbery in progress.

When police called to verify, a worker confirmed the robbery, the lawsuit says.

Turns out, Church's workers had their eyes on the pouch that carried Anderson's receipt.

The manager "assumed this pouch contained a firearm, and at the prompting of her employees pressed the panic alarm," police reported.

After interviewing witnesses, police said Anderson had spoken in "a loud and condescending tone" as he tried to persuade workers to give him his food, a police report said.

Finding no weapons, police quickly released Anderson and, he said, apologized.

And before he left the store, a Church's employee gave him his replacement meals.

"Anderson left the store happy with the outcome," a police report said.

Not so, Anderson said.

After leaving the restaurant, he stopped his car and decided, hungry or not, he would not eat this food.

"I jumped out of my car," he said, "screamed and threw the chicken everywhere. I was just so mad."

William R. Levesque can be reached at (813) 226-3436 or levesque@sptimes.com.

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