Animal Rights Activist Faces Hearing In Acts Against Aston Pet Store The Delaware Man Is Accused Of Food-tampering Threats And Assault At A Nearby Grocery.

Posted: December 31, 1996

ASTON — A Delaware animal-rights activist who has pressed for the closing of an Aston pet store faces a preliminary hearing Thursday on charges stemming from alleged assault and food-tampering threats at a grocery store in the same shopping center.

Vincent Mancinelli, 30, of Newark, president of Delaware Animal Rescue, was arrested Thursday after police investigated reports of leaflets left at the Shop 'N Bag store on Dec. 21. The leaflets said food had been tampered with by animal rights activists who wanted to close the Aston Pet Center, also in the Dutton Mill Shopping Center. Police found no evidence of food tampering.

The Aston Pet Center has been the target of protests for a year, over allegations that the store kept animals in unfit conditions.

Norman Wheeler, owner of Aston Pet Center, said, ``The protesters have made it a rough year by attempting to drive me out of business with their false allegations. There has never been any evidence of cruelty, neglect or improper care given. These aren't do-gooders. They are terrorists.''

The Shop 'N Bag manager reported that he saw a man, later identified as Mancinelli, acting suspiciously in the store on Dec. 21. When the manager began to question him, Mancinelli put down his shopping basket and walked away, police said. Outside, the two got into a quarrel, police said, and Mancinelli is accused of pulling out a knife. After a shoving match, the manager was able to go back into the store and call 911, police said. Mancinelli was later identified through a photo array and video, police said.

On Thursday, Aston police and Delaware state police served a search warrant at Mancinelli's home in Delaware and confiscated literature, his computer and other materials, police said.

Mancinelli told detectives that he was at the Shop 'N Bag Dec. 21, police said. Mancinelli told police that he saw the warning fliers in the aisles among food items and handled them but that he did not distribute them.

Mancinelli contends that what the manager saw was an infrared laser pointer, not a knife, the affidavit states.

Mancinelli was arraigned before District Justice Stephanie Klein on charges of aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, making terroristic threats, harassment and stalking, and possessing instruments of crime.

He was released from Delaware County Prison after posting 10 percent of $15,000 bail.

The preliminary hearing will be in Aston District Court.

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