By Jeff Zent, The Forum
Published Friday, May 14, 2004
Can you hear me now? Jason Perala's message got through loud and clear to employees at a Fargo Verizon Wireless store Wednesday.
The Fargo construction worker said he planned only to scream at the employees at the store in West Acres mall.
"Then I just lost it," he said in a phone interview a few hours later, from inside the Cass County Jail.
"I just started grabbing computers and phones and throwing them," he said. "I just destroyed the place."
Unreliable phones and poor service were eating away at Perala for months, he said.
"I'm always sending money across that counter," he said. "I'm tired of doing things their way."
Perala's rampage began just after the cellular phone store in West Acres shopping mall opened at 10 a.m., police said.
A phone hurled across the store struck an employee in the shoulder before he and other workers dashed into an office, locked the door and called police, Fargo Police Sgt. Kevin Volrath said.
Perala tried to open the office door, then turned his attention back to the store's merchandise, Volrath said.
The rampage drew a crowd while some area businesses lowered their steel security gates, said Samantha Guthmiller, who works at a kiosk just outside Verizon Wireless.
Perala took off his shirt and continued to throw merchandise and displays throughout the store, she said.
A phone thrown from the store landed near her feet, she said.
"I couldn't really make out what he was ranting and raving about," she said. "The whole thing made me a little nervous."
Guthmiller said the ruckus lasted about 10 minutes before police arrived.
Officers drew their taser guns and ordered Perala to the floor. He complied and was arrested without incident, Volrath said.
Store employees closed the store for the day and spent the afternoon cleaning up. They declined to comment.
Store manager Paul Terveen referred questions to the company's Chicago office.
Perala didn't walk into the store to settle a problem, said company spokesman David Clevenger from Chicago. The store came under attack as soon as he walked in, Clevenger said.
The employee hit by a phone was not seriously injured, he said.
Perala said he put on a pair of safety glasses before entering the store because he thought employees could have pepper spray.
"I was just going to scream at them, but that doesn't get anywhere," he said. "I didn't know what was going to happen but I knew something was going to happen."
Perala said he didn't intend to hit an employee and regretted that he had.
Volrath said the store received more than $2,000 in damages.
Four patrol officers responded to an employee's call for help. They arrested Perala on charges of criminal mischief, a Class C felony and misdemeanor simple assault.
"I started and I just couldn't stop," Perala said. "I kind of regret that I did it, but I hope my message got across."
This is totally hilarious. I grew up in Fargo, near the West Acres Mall (basically, the mall in Fargo). And Officer Volrath, I'm pretty sure, was the D.A.R.E. officer for my 6th grade class.
I guess the guy who did it is planning on pleading guilty, since he doesn't really try to excuse his actions...