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    Threats at KFC lead to arrest

    Officials say the man lied about his whereabouts and admitted to drinking excessively, both probation violations.

    By ERIC STIRGUS

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published August 2, 2001


    LARGO -- A man whose racially motivated threat to kill a KFC manager was not initially investigated by Largo police was arrested Wednesday afternoon on charges of violating his probation, officials said.

    James M. Donahue, 47, was picked up by state corrections officials after lying to them by denying that he had come to the fast food restaurant Saturday, said Joe Papy, regional director of the state Department of Corrections. Lying about one's whereabouts is considered a probation violation, Papy said.

    Donahue was being held Wednesday at the Pinellas County Jail without bail. Donahue, who most recently lived in Seminole, according to state records, also admitted to excessive drinking that night, a violation of his probation after an April 2000 arrest by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for aggravated stalking, Papy said.

    Donahue's arrest record dates to 1980, when he was charged with driving under the influence, Papy said. Since then, Donahue, who also goes by the last name Donohue, has been arrested on numerous occasions in New York and Texas on charges ranging from trespassing to assault and grand theft, Papy said.

    In November 1997, sheriff's deputies charged Donahue with grand theft, corrections officials said. A month later, Treasure Island police charged him with aggravated assault and false imprisonment, said Papy. Donahue was sentenced to two years and four months in state prison in connection with those charges, Papy said.

    Papy said Donahue was a maintenance worker for Resource Property Management in Largo but was fired last month when the company found out he was on parole.

    Largo police have been looking for Donahue since Monday, when KFC employees identified him as the man who came to the restaurant Saturday night and said he was going to kill the "n----- manager."

    It was the third time in five days a man witnesses identified as Donahue had been at the Walsingham Road restaurant making disparaging remarks about blacks and urging KFC employees to kill African-Americans, according to employees.

    In each case, Largo police were called to the scene by frightened employees. But police did not file a report and did not gather witness statements until inquiries were made by the St. Petersburg Times.

    The woman who was the target of the threat was relieved that Donahue was picked up, but she is worried that he may be released.

    "The only way I'll feel safe is to know he does get locked up and not let out," said Brenda Daniels.

    Largo police have admitted they did not properly handle the case and have said they will apologize to Daniels.

    Donahue denied to his probation officer that he was at the restaurant Saturday night, but he admitted to Largo police that he was there, Papy said. Donahue said he blacked out after drinking too much alcohol that night, Papy said. He did not make any other statements about his actions Saturday night.

    Largo police spokesman Mac McMullen said his department's investigation of the case is ongoing, declining to comment further.

    The three incidents have created an atmosphere of fear at the restaurant, Daniels said. One worker has refused to work past 9 p.m., and Daniels said she constantly looks over her shoulder at work.

    "Everybody has kind of been on the lookout," she said.

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