ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – When an aggressive panhandler didn't take no for answer, it led to a heated confrontation between the homeless panhandler and a gas station customer, according to the St. Augustine Police Department.
It happened Friday morning at a gas station on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, less than a mile away from the St. Augustine police station on King Street.
At 6:47 a.m., surveillance video captured Paul Delacerda walking out of the gas station toward his car as a homeless man, later identified by police as Marc Smith, walked toward him.
The camera stopped recording at that point, but Delacerda told News4Jax that's when the homeless man asked him for money. Delacerda said no and told him to go away.
The situation then escalated.
"He balled up his fist, starting coming at me and said he was going to kick my a**," Delacerda said.
Another homeless man said he witnessed the confrontation.
"I saw them arguing over there. Then me and my dog left. I knew something bad was going to happen," Indian Joe said. "There was anger there."
Delacerda said he got in his car and drove to a nearby parking lot, where he called 911 for help.
While he was giving dispatch a description of the panhandler, Delacerda said, he watched the man cross the street, grab a long pipe and walk back across the street toward his car.
"I was thinking he was either going to harm or knock out a window on my car," he said.
Officers arrived before anyone was injured and arrested Smith.
Delacerda said he has a license to carry a firearm and that his interaction with Smith could have easily turned into a stand your ground situation.
“He didn’t have a gun. All he had was his fist then, later on, a pole," he said. "To me, it’s not a reason to shoot a person, but it could have been construed as a danger to my life"
Smith, 44, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. On his arrest report, Smith is listed as homeless.
He was booked into the St. Johns County jail, where he remained without bond as of Friday evening.
Though St. Augustine recently passed an ordinance banning panhandling within 20 feet of business entrances, the video shows that Smith was more than 20 feet from the gas station entrance when police said he approached Delacerda.
Before the ordinance took effect in April, business owners complained that panhandlers were scaring away customers. Delacerda said Friday morning’s confrontation is yet another example of the problem.
“This problem is not new to St. Augustine," Delacerda said. "It’s been going on for years and years and years and I don’t know what we’re going to do about it."