ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Pete man spent New Year's day in a jail cell after police say he attacked a McDonald's employee for not giving him a straw.
Yasmine James was behind the counter of the McDonald's on 34th Street South, when St. Pete police say 41-year-old Daniel Taylor forcefully grabbed her and pulled her up onto the counter. According to police, James defended herself by punching Taylor in the face, as he held on to her shirt's collar.
Brenda Biandudi, another customer in the restaurant at the time, pulled her phone out as she saw the argument escalating, seconds before Taylor grabbed James.
Biandudi says the argument started when Taylor went over to the condiment bar to grab a straw. When he noticed there were none, she says he began screaming at the employees.
"He was yelling and walking toward the counter and the young lady behind the counter told him that it’s the law now that we’re not allowed to have straws in the lobby,” she said.
The new law, which took effect January 1 in St. Petersburg says restaurants can’t have straws out. Instead, customers must request the straw. In 2020, plastic straws will no longer be allowed in restaurants at all and businesses will have to find an alternative.
"They started exchanging words laced with profanity and he said there’s no such law that exists and she was saying yes it is a law,” said Biandudi.
She says after seeing how the man reacted, she thinks he needs help. Biandudi says after leaving, he came back into the store and yelled at the manager. In the police report, it says Taylor kicked another employee in the stomach on his way out.
Taylor was arrested and charged with two counts of simple battery.
"Even if it was a mistake just ask politely. You know, treat people the way you wanna be treated,” she said.
McDonalds wouldn’t allow their employees to talk about the incident but sent this statement:
Our highest priority is always the safety and well-being of our employees and customers at our restaurants. We have been in contact with the police department and are fully cooperating with their investigation.
"I don’t know what was in his mind but I just hope he gets the help that he needs,” said Biandudi, who believes James handled herself appropriately. “She had to do what she was doing, she’s a petite girl and I just felt she did the right thing."
Our reporters have spoken to the McDonald's employee Yasmine James who tells us she has not been fired following this incident, as rumors circulating on social media claim.