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Man accused of spitting on trooper's hamburger

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

By Milan Simonich, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Former Burger King cook Joshua Arbuckle has been charged with aggravated assault for supposedly spitting on the hamburger he prepared for a Pennsylvania state trooper.

Arbuckle, 18, was tied to the crime after a four-month police investigation that included DNA analysis, Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron said yesterday.

Aaron said Arbuckle let investigators swab his mouth to obtain a sample of his genetic makeup. Arbuckle's DNA then was matched to the spittle found on Trooper Robert Manno's burger.

Arbuckle, of Hawthorn in Clarion County, could not be reached for comment last night.

He no longer works at the Burger King off Interstate 80, where the tainted sandwich was served the night of Feb. 10. A manager at the restaurant said Arbuckle was fired after the spitting complaint, though she was not sure if that was the reason behind his dismissal.

"He wasn't the best employee," the manager said.

Aaron said Manno brought his burger back to the Clarion barracks and inspected it before digging in. After Manno lifted the bun, he saw what appeared to be a wad of spittle looking back at him.

"I'm not sure why he opened the sandwich before biting it," Aaron said, adding that there was no history of conflict between the trooper and Arbuckle.

Manno was off work yesterday and did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Aaron said the aggravated assault charge, a felony, was made against Arbuckle for one reason only: "The victim's a police officer."

Asked if he meant that such a charge would not have been made if Arbuckle were accused of spitting on another teenager's burger, Aaron replied: "I think that's accurate."

Arbuckle also was charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and simple assault, according to a statement from state police.

Aaron said Arbuckle was arraigned last week and entered a plea of not guilty.

But Duane Quinn, the district magistrate who signed the state police complaint against Arbuckle, said he did not believe the suspect had entered a plea or been arraigned.

Milan Simonich can be reached at msimonich@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1956.

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