Man Arrested Over Cocking AK-47 Outside Metro Diner After Words With Manager
FlaglerLive | April 1, 2016
Patrons at Metro Diner, the new, busily frequented restaurant at Palm Coast’s Island Walk, had a fright Wednesday afternoon when several of them say a man cocked an “automatic rifle” several times in their proximity, though he did not point the weapon at them.
Joseph Eberhardinger, a 24-year-old resident of 80 Upshire Path in Palm Coast, was arrested and charged with the improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon, a first-degree misdemeanor, and booked at the Flagler County jail on $1,000 bond, which he posted.
Three witnesses told Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies that Eberhardinger, his pick-up truck briefly parked in the travel lane in front of the restaurant, “went into the left-rear door of his truck and removed a black assault rifle, later known as a Century Arms AK-47 and appeared to cock it multiple times, then placed it back into the vehicle and pulled into the parking spot and exited the truck once more.” Deputies soon arrived.
An altercation between Eberhardinger’s girlfriend and a restaurant manager had apparently led to the incident outside. Eberhardinger’s girlfriend had either lost her job at the restaurant or quit, and had gone there to retrieve her last paycheck. She had a verbal run-in with the manager about an email the ex-employee had sent, in which she’d said that she’d like to be rehired if the manager were to quit or be fired. The manager allegedly replied that she wasn’t “going anywhere.” Eberhardinger, in his account to police, told the manager that he considered her retort unprofessional and, that it “sounded like a personal attack,” and that he would report her to the Better Business Bureau.
Eberhardinger’s account then differs from that of witnesses. He told deputies that after leaving the Metro Diner he got into his truck–a Toyota Tacoma–backed out of the parking spot than smelled something odd in his car, so he decided to stop the car in the travel lane and investigate. He went to the backseat to locate the origin of the smell, moved the rifles–he had several–and one of them started to fall down, so he grabbed it and re-positioned it. He then got back into the driver’s seat, only to realize–again, according to his own account to police, as reproduced in his arrest report–that he didn’t have his phone. So he pulled into a parking spot a few spots down from where he’d originally parked and again went searching in the back seat to find his phone. That’s when deputies arrived.
Deputies didn’t buy the story. When they first asked Eberhardinger why he had all those rifles with him, he said he and his girlfriend had been at a gun range in Ocala earlier that day, though later changed his story to mean that he’d been at the gun range the previous day (it was not illegal for Eberhardinger to carry the guns in the vehicle, properly stored, regardless of his activities or their timing).
Eberhardinger’s “description of events did not logically make sense,” deputy Gibson Smith wrote in the arrest report.
“After being asked about cocking the rifle, Mr. Eberhardinger then stated that he was removing the magazine from the rife.” The deputy concluded that patrons at the restaurant had been in fear for their lives and arrested Eberhardinger. Six weapons were confiscated for the time being–four rifles and two pistols, with the AK-47 entered into evidence.
Just a few hours later, after 8 p.m., Anthony Catoggio, a 19-year-old resident of 29 Laguna Forest Trail in Palm Coast, was arrested on an identical charge, but at a different location: he was at a lake off of Belle Terre Boulevard, just north of Zonal Geranium Trail.
Young people were playing there when a vehicle with four males pulled up. Catoggio started to interact with a 15-year-old boy, who thought Catoggio was just playing with him, until Catoggio asked them: “Are you guys done?” When they asked what he meant, he went to his vehicle and allegedly retrieved a gun, scaring the youths.
Catoggio told deputies that the youths had kicked sand and “other stuff” at him and his friends, so he got upset, so he pulled out a semiautomatic Remington rifle and placed it on the hood of the vehicle–and asked his friends if they thought he’d get in trouble if he started to shoot into the water. He told police he wasn’t going to shoot at the youths, but “towards the southern end of the lake.”
He was arrested and charged with improper exhibit of a firearm and released after he posted bail, on $500 bond.