PEABODY — A worker at a popular Northshore Mall restaurant showed up there twice this week with a loaded handgun and threatened to "blow away anyone that messed with him," police and prosecutors say.
Jose Sanchez, 28, then struggled with a Peabody police detective, who was forced to draw his own gun and hold it to the suspect's head inside a small office at The Cheesecake Factory on Thursday morning, a prosecutor said in court.
Sanchez, of 9A Belleview Ave., Salem, is now facing a string of charges that include carrying a firearm and ammunition — a high-capacity clip found in a shirt pocket — without a license, assault and battery on a police officer, and heroin possession.
He pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail at Middleton Jail pending a hearing March 8 into whether he poses a danger to the public if released.
Sanchez has previously done prison time for attempted murder and gun charges.
Peabody police were called to The Cheesecake Factory on Thursday morning by a manager who had just read an email from an assistant manager on the prior evening's shift.
Police said that, according to the email, Sanchez had flashed a handgun in the waistband of his pants on Wednesday evening to a co-worker in an employee locker area, and made the threat to "blow away" the co-worker or anyone else who gave him a problem.
Surveillance video showed Sanchez appearing to show something to the other worker, but did not capture an image of the gun, prosecutor Janelle Amadon said.
As Peabody police Detective Robert Church was interviewing the manager in his office, the manager was called away, Amadon told Peabody District Court Judge Richard Mori.
When the manager returned, Sanchez was with him.
Church identified himself as a police officer and asked Sanchez if he had any weapons.
Sanchez then shoved Church and tried to leave the office. A struggle ensued, during which Church repeatedly ordered Sanchez to stop resisting. When Sanchez didn't, Church drew his gun and held it to Sanchez's head, as Sanchez continued to struggle.
Church was finally able to subdue Sanchez, then patted him down and turned up a 9 mm Springfield arms handgun tucked near the crotch of his pants as well as a high capacity clip in his front pocket.
Police also found heroin on him, Amadon said.
Sanchez's lawyer, Nick Morris, said the gun did not belong to his client. He said Sanchez had found it, then carried it around looking for a way to get rid of it, such as "throwing it into the ocean."
Morris said his client didn't want to leave the gun at home because there is a teenager living there, and he couldn't leave it in his car because he doesn't own one. "He rides the bus to and from work," said Morris, who said Sanchez had worked at The Cheesecake Factory for the past nine months.
The defense lawyer also questioned whether a statement that he would "blow away" someone was really a threat.
"I don't know about that," said a skeptical Mori.
"Mr. Sanchez doesn't present a danger to the community," Morris said.
"Certainly there's much more than probable cause" to hold Sanchez, Mori said, noting Sanchez's prior record.
That record includes a 2002 conviction for attempted murder, illegally carrying a gun, discharging a gun within 500 feet of a dwelling, and assault, which led to a 21/2 to 31/2 year state prison term. Salem Superior Court records reveal that not long after he completed that sentence, he served another 21/2 years in jail for violating his probation, and then served an additional two years for driving a stolen car while drunk and leaving the scene of an accident in Peabody.
A manager at the Peabody restaurant referred questions to the company's headquarters. Messages left there yesterday afternoon were not returned.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or at email@example.com.