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INCIDENT WITH GUN BRINGS CHARGES

A cafe co-owner is accused of threaten-ing a bartender.

Whimsical Mardi Gras masks fill the walls at Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen, a popular Central Avenue stop for shrimp, grits and cocktails. It's typically a peaceful place, with a strict no-weapons policy.

That's why everyone is stunned by the incident.

About 2 a.m. Friday, when Chappy's was closing, local restaurateur and Chappy's co-owner Craig "Chappy" Chapman pulled a gun on bartender Joshua Connell, police say.

Connell, 25, is the son of Jim Connell, one of Chappy's three owners.

"We're totally sick about the whole event," said Jim Connell. "We didn't even know there was a gun on the premises."

Jim Connell said the incident happened outside the restaurant at 237 Central Ave. when his son and Chapman's daughter both noticed they had parking tickets on their cars.

Joshua Connell offered to pay, a move that Chapman's daughter took as a racial put-down, said Jim Connell. He said Chapman and his daughter had been drinking that night.

"Then ... he was walking to the breezeway away from them, and, literally, that's when Craig came up and basically went ballistic," he said.

Police say Craig Chapman, 49, pulled out a 9 mm handgun and pointed it at Joshua Connell. When Connell tried to leave, police say, Chapman grabbed him and put the gun to his neck and face and pushed him onto the outdoor bar counter. They struggled, and the gun fell to the ground. Someone from the restaurant grabbed it. No one was seriously injured. Chapman, 22920 Eagles Watch Drive in Land O'Lakes, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail about 5:30 a.m. Friday on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The incident was captured on video, but police would not release it, saying it was evidence.

Chappy's, which opened in 2008, was open for business as usual on Friday.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

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