A South Carolina construction worker poured himself into trouble while taking his lunch break at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Charleston, S.C.
Christopher Lewis was ticketed on April 16 by the Federal Police Force at the hospital because he failed to pay 89 cents to refill his soda, Charleston's WCSC reported. The fine was later reduced to a warning following an investigation by the medical center.
"In reviewing the case, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has determined a warning in lieu of a citation is sufficient in this case," the VA said in a April 17 statement.
Speaking to WCSC, Lewis said he didn't know that he had to pay to refill his drink. "As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me was I going to pay for that, and I told him I wasn't aware that I had to pay for that," described Lewis. He said he offered to pay immediately for the drink. But the man, who identified himself as the chief of police, did not allow him to do so.
Lewis said he was given the ticket for $525 and instructed not to return to the hospital, leaving him unable to complete his work at the facility.
"I'm done there, at the VA hospital. I'm not allowed to go on the premises anymore. I asked him can I still work on the job site and just bring my lunch and not got to the cafeteria and he said he wanted me off the premises," he told WCSC in an interview on Wednesday.
The medical center initially released the following statement following the incident:
"The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is fortunate to have a highly trained Federal police force to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and employees. As Federal police they are responsible for enforcing the law. Today a Federal citation was issued for shoplifting in the VA cafeteria to an individual who stated to VA police he had not paid for refills of beverages on multiple occasions, even though signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons refills are not free. Shoplifting is a crime. The dollar amount of the ticket is not determined by VA as it is a Federal citation. The citation may be paid or the recipient may choose to appear in Federal court to contest it."
A spokesperson also said that Lewis had been aggressive when called out by the officer for not paying for his drink refill. On Wednesday, Lewis revealed he planned to contest the ticket. And it appears his efforts were successful, as the charges were reduced the next day.