WILKES-BARRE — He was not done in by Chicken McNuggets and french fries.
Make no mistake about it, the crazy man who shot an innocent senior citizen was caught because of alert, quick-thinking McDonald’s employees — a special part of the American workforce that is all too often maligned, ridiculed and abused.
Despite making far less than they deserve, these dedicated workers showed the world this week what it means to be responsible.
A source no less than The New York Times ran a story that detailed a report about the incident. They spoke to Henry Sayers, the McDonald’s manager in Erie, who said the suspect and fugitive Steve Stephens bought a 20-piece order of McNuggets and a large order of fries at the drive-thru. The story said that Stephens was recognized by an employee, who then waved him forward to complete his order.
According to the story, in that brief window of time, McDonald’s employees — who, yes, deserve the $50,000 reward money — confirmed their customer was, indeed, Stephens. The employees even identified Stephens’ car as the one they had seen in media reports and then they called the police. The FBI will decide who, if anybody, will receive the reward, the reports said.
The employees used their intellect to buy time — the employee handling his order gave him his McNuggets, but held his fries as police were en route. Police were able to get to the scene and followed Stephens, a brief chase ensued that ended in Stephens taking his own life, according to police reports.
Yes, the man known as the “Facebook killer” was “done in, “taken down,” call it whatever you want, by a group of McDonald’s employees in Erie, Pennsylvania.
This occurred late Tuesday morning near lunchtime, more than two days after police say Stephens randomly shot and killed a retiree from Cleveland. Stephens was detected by these alert McDonald’s employees in Erie — some 100 miles from where he shot the Cleveland man.
It was the third day of “an intensive manhunt” for Stephens. The fugitive managed to evade police, but he could not escape the keen eyes of the crew at the Erie McDonald’s.
According to media reports, a McDonald’s attendant who took Stephens’ money recognized him as the suspect and dialed 911. The reports said Stephens pulled up to the next window, where restaurant owner Thomas DuCharme Jr. and a supervisor tried stalling him by telling him his fries were delayed. Stephens didn’t wait — he took his McNuggets and left the parking lot.
These are the things that legends are made of — that heroes are recognized for. And this should be the case for the staff and ownership of the McDonald’s in Erie. Who knows what was next on Stephens’ agenda? Could he victimize another innocent person or persons? Apparently, he was capable of heinous acts.
For as long as one can remember, there have been jokes about people who work at McDonald’s and, well, nearly all fast food chains. These insensitive attempts at humor attack these employees — many of them kids or senior citizens — and question their intellect and their ability to perform the simplest of tasks.
But to set the record straight, if it weren’t for the employees at the Erie McDonald’s, Steve Stephens might still be on the loose. He might have committed another crime or crimes.
There is something extremely special about any employee who will show up for his or her job at minimum wage and perform their duties to the best of their ability and take pride in all they do. They also are polite and courteous and often have to listen to insults and/or ignorant comments from customers who, for reasons I can’t understand, look down on them.
To give credit to anybody or anything other than these employees for ending the fear that was out there while Stephens was on the loose is wrong and way off base.
So the next time you stop at a McDonald’s or any other place where the person behind the window or at the counter asks how they can help you, be courteous and kind and thank them for their dedication.
Just like you, these employees deserve a break today and every day.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]