Salvation Army bell ringer accused of punching customer outside MD Walmart

Police say the man huffed and licked a vial allegedly containing PCP prior to the incident

Salvation Army bell ringer accused of punching customer outside MD Walmart
In light of the accusations of drug use, the Salvation Army says 40-year-old David Kelley has been taken off the bell ringing schedule in an effort to protect the public. (Source: WJLA/CNN)

GERMANTOWN, MD (WJLA/CNN) - During the holiday season, bell ringers for the Salvation Army encourage shoppers to place donations in their red kettles, but police say one of those bell ringers allegedly ingested PCP and assaulted a Walmart customer.

Police say they were dispatched to a Germantown, MD, Walmart last Wednesday evening after reports that 40-year-old bell ringer David Kelley stopped collecting donations and began to huff and lick a vial that appeared to contain an oil.

Witnesses say Kelley, appearing agitated, then shouted obscenities, spoke with garbled speech, flung his arms in the air and aimlessly walked into the parking lot, nearly getting hit by passing vehicles.

When a 44-year-old male customer approached Kelley, the bell ringer allegedly punched him twice in the face, causing a small cut to his cheek.

Kelley later rolled around on the cold parking lot pavement while shouting, “I am John Wayne,” according to witnesses.

When two female officers arrived on the scene, Kelley allegedly thrust his hips at them in a sexual manner and stated, “Ladies.”

Officers tried to use Tasers on Kelley, but they were ineffective, and the officers ended up tackling the man instead.

Medics took Kelley to the hospital for observation. Criminal charges against him are pending.

Law enforcement sources say Kelley’s vial contained PCP and an oil solution that masked the powerful drug’s distinct odor.

An officer who handled the vial needed to be hospitalized for exposure to the reported drug.

The Salvation Army said it was initially unaware of Kelley’s alleged PCP use and instead thought the man had a “medical incident” stemming from a new prescription medication.

Two days after the alleged violence outside of Walmart, Kelley returned to his red kettle duties.

However, in light of the new accusations, the Salvation Army says the 40-year-old has been temporarily taken off the schedule in an effort to protect the public.

"Apparently he had been doing a really good job with [bell ringing] prior to whatever happened last week. Our prayers are with [Mr. Kelley], and we hope he gets whatever help he needs,” said Ken Forsythe, Communications and Marketing Manager for Salvation Army National Capital Area Command.

Most Salvation Army bell ringers are volunteers, but a few dozen people are hired at minimum wage each holiday season, according to Forsythe. The jobs typically go to those in need. Kelley was hired because he said he was having trouble paying for his prescription medication.

According to court records, Kelley has previous convictions for crimes, including drug possession with the intent to distribute, second degree assault and disorderly conduct.

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