When Deputy Alex Zapata returned to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Hesperia station early Monday morning, Sgt. Colleen Kuhn was concerned when she saw what appeared to be blood on the deputy.


"It wasn't blood," Kuhn chuckled. "It was ketchup."


Zapata along with three other deputies had just returned from a large food fight at the In-N-Out Burger on Mariposa Road, where four men smeared and slung ketchup, mustard, lettuce and fountain drinks all over the eatery's dining room, authorities stated.


"It was a mess," Zapata said.


Authorities received a call from the restaurant's manager around 11 p.m. Sunday advising them four drunken men were throwing food in the dining room and would not leave.


When deputies arrived, they found three of the men outside and one still inside.


"The man inside had ordered more food and was waiting for it," Kuhn said.


Deputies learned the four — identified as Matthew Peck, 25, of Victorville; Ricky Romero, 24, of Rancho Cucamonga; Nathan Maldonado, 23, and Rene Guzman, 26, both of Apple Valley— had been drinking heavily earlier in the evening and decided to pick up some hamburgers.


After receiving their first order, they went back to the truck where the food fight began.


"They started a food fight in one guy's truck and it carried over into the restaurant itself where they started throwing food each other," Zapata said. Officials found alcohol in the truck along with the food they tossed around.


According to investigators, the men were not violent, but were very intoxicated.


"They actually thought it was funny and were joking about going to jail," Zapata said.


All four were arrested for public intoxication and were booked into Victor Valley Jail.


Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at 951-6276 or at BValenzuela@VVDailyPress.com.