EARLY — Ron Davis knows what it is to be caught in a Facebook firestorm.
The 61-year-old Davis, who lives in the Weatherford area, built and owns the Taco Casa restaurant in Early.
On Aug. 13, a woman who lives in the Cisco area made a Facebook post alleging that her father, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, had just been disrespected by a Taco Casa employee.
The veteran, who was alone in a silver SUV, had just come from the VA clinic, where he’d had a doctor’s appointment, Davis learned. The veteran was wearing a cap that identified him as a Marine veteran when he entered the drive-thru at 1:30 p.m. in Aug. 13, a Thursday.
Davis said the veteran had apparently told his wife he’d been disrespected.
Amber McOmber alleged in the post that her father, a man in his 60s who also lives in the Cisco area, had been called a "murderer" by the employee.
When Davis learned of the allegation, he assumed it was true — and he was furious. Davis questioned employees and reviewed video of the man’s brief stop at the drive-thru window to receive his food.
"I’m 100 percent confident it didn’t happen," Davis said in an interview Wednesday night at the restaurant. "Until I got here to look at video, and I could see the silver Tahoe, and the man pull up and I could watch the whole thing, and look at everything around it — till then, I just took their word for it."
Davis said the fallout from McOmber’s post had already started. The restaurant received numerous hostile messages on Facebook, via email and in phone calls, lambasting the business for the business for the alleged disrespect of the veteran.
"What I see is like the fakebook fire —fakebook wildfire," Davis said. "All I know is, I got caught in that … ’let’s burn the place down because that guy made me mad out of all your employees. Let’s just burn it all down.’"
Davis cited an example of an angry message that began "we ought to load up and go up there and kick their ass."
Davis said the restaurant was being portrayed as "we don’t like vets. You’d think we’re Antifa. We love vets. We love cops and we support them."
Davis said he sent letters to many of those who called and emailed in which he explained his investigation into the allegation and stated he found no evidence the allegation was true.
Reached by phone Friday afternoon, McOmber, 33, said she believes her father’s account of being disrespected. She said she did nothing wrong in making the post.
"I really didn’t expect it to blow up like it did," McOmber said. "They (Taco Casa) said I bashed them. I did not. I didn’t ever bash Taco Casa itself. It was everybody else. I don’t have anything to apologize for."
McOmber stated in the Facebook post, "Just got a call from my mom. Her and my dad were in Early and went through the Taco Casa drive-thru. The man at the window thanked my dad for his service and the (employee behind him) said ‘don’t thank him, he’s a murderer.’ So mom is getting touch with the corporate office."
Davis said he walked into the restaurant mid-afternoon on Aug. 13 when the Taco Casa’s general manager received a phone call from the veteran’s wife.
"The wife tells her the story," Davis said. "So (the GM) tells me and I went out there right then." Davis saw that a lower-level manager, a young man in his early 20s who has been an excellent employee, was running the drive-thru.
"I said ‘who waited on the guy at the window, a veteran, had a U.S. Marine Corps hat on, and somebody thanked him for his service?’" Davis asked.
"He said ‘I’ve been running the drive-thru for an hour and half but I haven’t thanked anybody for their service.’ The wife couldn’t tell us what time he was there or describe who was at the drive-thru. So it didn’t leave us a lot to go on."
Davis said he questioned the employees in the restaurant. "They all said ‘we don’t know what you’re talking about,’" Davis said. "I didn’t know what to make of it. Didn’t have a clue."
The next day, the GM texted Davis that someone in the veteran’s family — Davis thinks it was the veteran’s wife — called again. This time, the woman provided a ticket number and a time of the transaction.
That told Davis what he needed to know: the veteran had been in the drive-thru at 1:30 p.m., and the lower-level manager Davis had already questioned was the employee at the drive-thru.
Davis was able to track down a phone number for the veteran’s daughter — McOmber — and reached her by phone.
"When I did reach her it had already blown up all on the Internet, with (the corporate office), and we started getting calls and emails," Davis said.
"We ended up talking a long time. We had a great conversation. At this time I’m assuming it must have happened. People wouldn’t make something like this up.
"I told her ‘here’s what I’m doing. I need to go to my store. I’ve got all these cameras and I’m going to look at it and we’ll find out the truth. And when I find the truth, I will terminate whoever did that.’ If this happened — first-time firing offense. No warnings on this."
Davis said McOmber told him she’d been driving through smoke from a fire, and as soon as she cleared the smoke, she stopped to make the Facebook post.
"That’s how fast she wanted the world to know," Davis said.
Davis said the founder and CEO of Taco Casa called him. "Ron, we’ve got to get this thing stopped," Roy quoted the CEO as saying. "This is ridiculous. You’ve got to find that employee. You’ve got to fire them."
Davis said he found the video of the veteran’s visit to the drive-thru, and it showed a smooth, uneventful transaction.
"When you look at the video, nothing happens," Davis said. "It’s one minute of a normal order, and one man sitting in a truck by himself, and 31 seconds of the window being open. He gets his food and drives off calmly and everybody continues what they’re doing."
Davis spoke once again with the manager who’d been running the drive-thru. He learned there had been one other employee working what Davis described as the serving line — an 18-year-old woman who has worked there for several years.
When the young woman learned that the veteran had allegedly been called a murderer, she was shocked and said "how rude," Davis said.
As he continued speaking with employees, Davis said, "they’re all looking at me and going ‘I don’t know. I never heard it.’"
Davis brought the manager who was running the drive-thru to speak to the Bulletin, but asked that the man’s name not be used.
"I don’t really remember the guy," the manager said of the veteran, adding that he had never thanked anyone for their service.
The manager said he didn’t hear anyone speak disrespectfully to the veteran. "We don’t tolerate that disrespect here," the manager said. "It was very alarming for me to hear that (allegation).
The manager said if he’d heard the employee on the serving line make a disrespectful statement, "I would’ve fired her on the spot."
Davis said he had asked McOmber to come to the restaurant and watch the video with him. He said she never did.
"When you look, you show me — show me anything that looks like there’s an incident of any kind, even the wrong drink," Davis said. "There’s nothing. It’s a smooth, smooth transaction."
McOmber said Davis told her the video lacks audio. With no audio, McOmber said, it and would not have proven anything.
Davis gave more details of the transaction with the veteran in the letters he sent to some of the restaurant’s critics.
The 18-year-old woman who was working the serving line had her back to the drive-thru window, Davis said in the letters.
"To make the orders correctly, she is focusing on the minters mounted above the serving line with the detailed instructions as to how the customer wants the order made," the letter sates. "The serving line is approximately 15 feet long.
" … She is never observed observed turning or paying any attention to the drive-thru window or the veteran outside in his vehicle. ... neither of them did anything out of the normal during the full minute the veteran was at the window. There is absolutely no evidence showing any sort of issue with the veteran or these employees during the one minute time frame.
Davis said he was able to speak later with the veteran, who McOmber said is in his mid-60s. "He didn’t talk much," Davis said. "He was a super nice man. He said ‘I dealt with a lot of this when I came home from the war. People have their opinions. They just need to keep them to themselves.’"
Davis said the veteran never did state what allegedly happened in the drive-thru.
"He didn’t just willfully make this up. He believes it," Davis said. "I don’t know what prompted it. I honestly believe the daughter is a good person. I think they’re a good family. I think the daughter got emotional because it’s her dad. I think it’s just a sad issue."
Davis said the Facebook firestorm has hurt the restaurant’s business, and he has asked McOmber to take down the post or at least clarify that there was another side to the story.
Davis said he told her if the post remained and the restaurant’s business continued to suffer, it could lead to legal action.
McOmber said she has made her page private.
"My dad believes it happened, and I’m going to believe him," McOmber said.
Davis said he’d sent out about 50 letters to critics and the letters seemed to have helped stem the angry messages.
"You always hear the one side," Davis said. The Bible in Proverbs says one side sounds good to a person when they hear a story — until they hear the other side."
Davis said the veteran and his family are welcome in his restaurant and he’d like to buy the veteran dinner.