The Tragic Reason A Wendy's Worker Was Shot By A Drive-Thru Customer

On January 14, Fox News carried the tragic news that a 16-year-old in Phoenix had been shot in the head. According to a more recent report by, Brian Durham Jr., the victim, has been taken off the ventilator and removed from the ICU. He will have to undergo speech therapy, but that is the positive outcome for this story.

The reason why Durham was shot was barbecue sauce. As Durham Sr. told Fox, his son was working at a Wendy's when one customer at the drive-thru asked for extra barbecue sauce. Apparently the request was denied, leading to a confrontation that resulted in the customer shooting through the drive-thru window. Durham Jr., who was not interacting with the customer but held his change, was shot in the head. "That somebody actually got shot over some barbecue sauce, so that was a confrontation, 'cause the dude couldn't get no extra barbecue sauce," Durham Sr. stated with disbelief. AZFamily announced later on January 14 that Phoenix police had made an arrest.

An extreme example of a trend

Fast Food establishments have long had a reputation for being on the receiving end of violence because, as Slate wrote in 2011, they are also a good target for robberies. What happened at Wendy's, however, was not a robbery, but a customer flare-up. Shooting a teenage worker marks the most extreme example of a trend towards increased aggression toward fast food workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In May 2020, Business Insider covered how there was an increase in violence against retail employees as customers rebelled against health measures like mandatory mask wearing. This spread to more disregard toward customer-facing roles across industries. In September 2020, Teen Vogue reported about how workers in restaurants were having a difficult time getting their customers to respect health mandates. One 17-year-old recalled a time they could not take back a cup holder from a customer because the customer had touched it during the global pandemic: "[Rather] than use the bin at the end of the drive-through, the customer decided to toss the cup holder back through the collection window at me."

There is a clear difference between the politicized measures against the coronavirus and barbecue sauce. However, it forms a backdrop against which crimes for even more banal reasons are committed.