PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- A short, dumpy man has been going around town faking choking episodes, apparently to get attention from women.
He flails his arms, coughs and sputters. After a woman rushes over to help, he showers her with gratitude, hugs and kisses.
The sheriff's office has gotten about a half-dozen calls about the Choking Man, as the Charlotte Sun Herald dubbed him.
So far he has not committed any crime, though a woman on Monday went to the hospital with an anxiety attack after an encounter.
It dawned on people that he was faking it after the newspaper ran a story earlier this week about a woman in a restaurant rescuing an anonymous choking man. The paper started getting calls from women saying they, too, had had encounters with a man who matched the description.
Mary Welcher said she noticed the man outside a hospital in January, flailing his arms, gasping and turning red.
"I knew the Heimlich maneuver from having done it on one of my children," Welcher said. "I ran around and grabbed him around the waist. A piece of apple came out. He'd been eating an apple before he started choking."
As in the other reported encounters, Choking Man was gushing with gratitude.
"He was crying, sweating, hugging us and saying, 'Thank you, you saved my life!"' Welcher said.
She and other women who have "saved" him described him as being in his mid-30s, 5-foot-6 and 245 pounds, with a bald spot and a mustache.
"There's been no crime. Our hands are kind of tied here," sheriff's spokesman Bob Carpenter said Friday.