Colo.: Fast-food tampering was anti-police
Nancy Lofholm Denver Post Staff Writer
Copyright 2006 The Denver Post
Last Mother's Day, Eagle police officer Matthew Ross cruised to the drive-up window of the local Taco Bell in his patrol car and picked up dinner for his wife and toddler son.
But Ross got something he didn't order - something intended for him because of his occupation. An ill Taco Bell employee with a history of animosity toward police spit into a soda that Ross' wife and 2-year-old son drank before discovering the "large, green, slimy thing" in the cup and making a run for the bathroom.
That tampering has led to a criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit and the chalking up of another incident in a list of purposeful contamination of law officers' meals at fast-food joints across the country.
Many tampering cases involve spitting or urinating in officers' orders, according to a 2001 article in The Wall Street Journal. The paper also reported incidents ranging from oven cleaner on a hamburger served up at a Burger King in Rochester, N.Y., to marijuana in a breakfast taquito at a Dallas-area Whataburger.
"An officer is a symbol of authority. This is a rebelling against authority - doing something you might later relate humorously," said Tim Richardson, legislative liaison with the national Fraternal Order of Police.
There was no humor in the incident for Ross and his wife, Wendy.
An attorney for the Rosses filed suit Monday in Eagle District Court claiming that former Taco Bell employee Miles D. Meese, who was being treated for bronchitis at the time of the incident, jeopardized the Rosses' health and caused them emotional distress. The suit, filed by Eagle lawyer John Clune, also claims that Taco Bell Colorado and the Taco Bell Corp. were negligent in supervising Meese.
Clune said Ross could not comment because of the civil case. He would not say how much the Rosses are seeking in damages.
"Taco Bell is committed to providing the highest level of food safety to our customers," company spokesman Rob Poetsch said in an e-mail statement. "While we don't comment on pending litigation, our franchisee does not tolerate this behavior and has terminated the employee for violating our strict food handling policies. Our operator will continue to cooperate with authorities in their investigation."
Meese, 19, pleaded guilty last month in a criminal case to harassment of the Rosses and received a 30-day jail sentence and two years' probation. The court also ordered him to pay $943 in restitution to the Rosses for medical expenses, to undergo a medical exam for infectious diseases and to write a letter of apology.
Meese could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Meese told the judge at his sentencing that he planned to enter a culinary school in Denver to become a chef.
Meese allegedly made other food threats to law officers after he was arrested on a separate matter while working at the Subway restaurant in Eagle in 2004. According to an arrest affidavit, he told an officer that if the officer ever ate at Subway, his sandwich would be tainted.
The affidavit said he made other threats against law enforcement at the time.
Staff writer Nancy Lofholm can be reached at 970-256-1957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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