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Cops to chat with Heimlich hoaxer

©Associated Press
March 11, 2003

PUNTA GORDA -- A man suspected of pretending he's choking to draw women to his rescue has been identified and may have to explain his antics to authorities.

A Charlotte County sheriff's detective took a dozen calls reporting supposed choking incidents after a story about the man appeared in a newspaper last week. The detective has identified the man, sheriff's spokesman Bob Carpenter said Monday. Officials did not make the name public.

"We're going to have a little talk with him Wednesday," Carpenter said Monday. "He's broken no law. There's no rush on this case, but we sure have gotten a lot of attention."

The short, rotund man has been making the rounds in southwestern Florida, staging realistic choking incidents with the apparent aim of being rescued and eliciting sympathy. So far, he hasn't committed any other crime, although a woman last week went to the hospital with an anxiety attack after an encounter.

The Charlotte Sun Herald, dubbed him "Choking Man" after its story first prompted calls from readers who had been duped.

According to the women who've "saved" him, Choking Man is white, in his mid 30s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and 245 pounds. He has brown hair with a bald spot and a mustache.

One of his rescuers was Darby Larkin. She told the Herald-Tribune in a story for Tuesday's editions that she walked up to a pickup parked on the side of a Sarasota road and saw the man flailing, slapping at the windshield and windows.

"Are you choking?" the 38-year-old Sarasota teacher asked.

The man opened the door, then fell face first on the truck's seat.

Larkin said she performed the Heimlich maneuver on the man and a macadamia nut popped out of his mouth. He hugged her and called her his "angel" for 20 minutes before she left.

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