Deputies: Man impersonated police officer at McDonald's

He reportedly tried to get a free meal

ST. PETERSBURG - Stopping by McDonald's means a quick and easy way for Donna Baldwin to pick up food, but she is surprised at the length one man allegedly went trying to get a free meal.

"It is a little shocking," she said.

What some might find especially frightening is that deputies said it happened in broad daylight Friday afternoon at a McDonald's on 66th Street North in St. Petersburg.

"I would have been freaked out," said Baldwin.

According to investigators, 33-year-old Joseph Pineda went through the drive-thru telling employees he was a law enforcement officer, that he did not have his wallet and wanted his food for free. Pineda reportedly bolstered his claim when he pulled up to the window.

He reportedly told a manager he had just come from a sting operation and flashed a badge and a gun.

"That was not good at all. That frightens people and the next thing you know people get hurt," said Baldwin.

Employees reacted quickly and called 911.

Pineda had pulled forward and was waiting for his food when deputies arrived instead. Deputies said at first Pineda refused to get out of the car. When they were able to arrest him, they found two badges, a .45 caliber gun and a holster.

"I would have been looking around saying what is going on," said Baldwin.

We reached out to McDonald's and they released a statement to ABC Action News:

"The safety of customers and staff is our priority. The employees responded appropriately and we continue to cooperate with the Sheriff's Department during their investigation."

ABC Action News went to Pineda's home and tried talking to his family, but no one answered. Deputies said Pineda's attempt to snag a free meal was not worth it. He now faces charges of impersonating a police officer and improper exhibition of a firearm.

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