Restaurant smoking violation finds robbery suspect

NEWPORT NEWS – That was one costly nicotine hit.

At about 11 p.m Monday, Jarry K. Ratliff, 27, took a break from his job at the McDonald’s on Jefferson Avenue in Denbigh to light up a cigarette inside the restaurant.

Unfortunately for him, that happened to be when Newport News police officer Matthew Andreoli was going through the restaurant’s drive-through.

Andreoli also knew about a new statewide ban on smoking in restaurants. The new law bans restaurant smoking except in designated and enclosed areas.

So Andreoli and another officer, Sgt. Daniel Butler, went inside and spoke with Ratliff. They not only issued him a summons for smoking but also ran his name through a national computer database of wanted suspects.

It turned out that Ratliff, of Crossing Court in Newport News, was a fugitive, wanted in an armed robbery five years back.

He and two other men are accused of robbing two people outside an Ocean View motel in August 2004.

The officers then arrested Ratliff, who faces two counts each of robbery and abduction, four counts of using a gun in a felony and one count of conspiracy — plus the smoking charge, punishable by a $25 fine.

“This is very good police work,” said Newport News police spokesman Harold Eley. “This is an excellent example of following up on what appears to be a minor violation.”

Eley said it was the first time he’s heard of police issuing a smoking summons under the new law.

“Cool,” said Norfolk police spokesman Chris Amos. “The law is the law, and in this case, it seems like it was a smoking gun.”


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