MANATEE -- Half of a Toyota Corolla apparently sticking out of the front wall of the Big L restaurant in Ellenton caused more than 100 people to call 911 about a serious car crash.
But it wasn't really a crash.
Big L co-owner Louie Burgess of Parrish rushed to a his restaurant at 4219 U.S. 301 shortly after midnight Monday and discovered the car had been intentionally chopped in half and attached to a replica painting of the front of the Big L.
He then uttered the name of the culprit: "Dennis Stinson!"
Louie and Linda Burgess, owners of Big L, believe the car and the crash scene are an elaborate April Fools' Day joke played on Big L customers and staff by Stinson, a regular at the restaurant and Manatee County's unofficial April 1 jokester.
Stinson could not be reached for comment Monday.
"When I got to the restaurant I told the deputies, and there were five there, that this is the work of Dennis
Stinson. He does a joke like this every year," Louie Burgess said.
Stinson once created an April 1 crime scene in the Big L parking lot using yellow crime tape and chalk body outlines.
He used triangles for bullet casings and ketchup for blood, Louie Burgess said.
"We had no clue it wasn't real," said Felicia Holinbaugh, Big L waitress and cashier, of Monday's half-a-car in the building.
"It really looked like a vehicle had crashed into the front of the building."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.