Sunday, July 19, 2009

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! vol. 30 ... a-mcflurry

An Eye for a McFlurry
One terrible reason to lose a body part.

Brandon Henderson lost his left eyeball over a McFlurry. On the evening of Feb. 15, authorities say, Khalif Lewis, an 18-year-old cashier at a West Philadelphia McDonald's, attacked the 35-year-old Henderson as he attempted to leave the restaurant after an argument over whether he could substitute a dessert item for french fries. Lewis punched him once in the eye with a key he placed between his fingers, authorities say. (Authorities have a surveillance tape of the incident.) Henderson's eye was ruined, and doctors removed it. Lewis was charged with aggravated assault and possession of an instrument of crime. Lewis has been released on bail and is awaiting trial, and despite having partially blinded a customer, is still working at the McDonald's.

"Yeah, I got the 4 o'clock shift tonight," said Lewis last Monday at the Criminal Justice Center, after a brief pretrial conference with his attorney.

A McDonald's manager has been charged with aiding the attack. Lewis said she's still working at the McDonald's, as well.

At a May preliminary hearing, Henderson testified that he and his wife, Rashee, were on their way home from dinner when they stopped at the McDonald's on 52nd and Chestnut to pick up food for their kids. The restaurant was out of fries.

"How is this a McDonald's and you don't have any french fries?" asked Henderson. "The logo is a french fry!"

The Hendersons requested a McFlurry as a substitute. They were served a small-size one, which they thought meager, and asked for a regular-size instead.

The shift manager and Rashee Henderson began arguing. The shift manager called Rashee a bitch, said Henderson. In an effort to defuse the situation, Henderson testified, he escorted his wife to the restaurant door and then went back to complete the order. Then, he said, Lewis, who was working the register, threatened him.

"This pussy think he tough," Henderson remembered Lewis saying."I'm going to knock him the fuck out." Then Lewis asked the shift manager to punch him off the clock.

"Wait a minute, I'll go get my keys," Henderson remembered Lewis saying next.

At this point, Henderson testified he canceled his order and asked for a refund. Receiving it, he turned to leave the restaurant, making it to the vestibule. This is when authorities say Lewis rushed him and struck him. Henderson testified that he immediately could not see from his left eye, and began yelling, "My eye, my eye." He felt his diamond chain being ripped from his neck. (Lewis has been charged with theft.) A crowd formed to watch, and Henderson testified his wife fought to pull Lewis off him. She then put her husband in the car and brought him home, his eye still gushing blood. A panicked Henderson and his wife rinsed it with water, but his sight was not returning.

"Your eyeball is gone," his wife told him.

The couple returned to the restaurant and identified Lewis for police, who then had Henderson transported to a hospital.

Police originally detained both Rashee Henderson and Lewis, then released them both that night. An investigation followed after detectives interviewed Henderson in the hospital and realized the gravity of his injury. Lewis was soon arrested and charged.

Meanwhile, after two surgeries, all that was left of Brandon Henderson's left eye was white spongy flesh, which he covered with an eye patch. By the May preliminary hearing, Henderson wore his new glass eye, which had been fitted during a grueling eight-hour operation.

Appearing in front of Judge Jimmie Moore, Assistant District Attorney Nicole Siller asked Henderson to explain the extent of his injuries. Henderson spoke of his physical pain, his depression and of how he could no longer work at his job.

"I can't believe I lost an eye over this," he said.

Henderson's previous phone number is out of service and he could not be reached for this article.

For his part, Lewis has pled not guilty. In the interview at the CJC, he admitted to throwing the first punch, but only because Henderson "came at him." He disputes the criminal complaint, which states he "knowingly, intentionally or recklessly attempted to cause bodily injury to the complainant by punching him about the eye while gripping keys."

"I don't even have keys to my house," said Lewis. He regrets the incident, he said.

"If I could do it over, I would have avoided the jawn," he said, "but I'm in it now."

He said his employers have been supportive.

"Yeah, they're cool," he said.

McDonald's issued a statement saying, "These are only allegations. ... It would be inappropriate to discuss the personnel matters of the individuals in question."

During a recent afternoon visit to the restaurant, a store manager, who would not give her name, said only, "I'm busy right now. I can't talk."

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