Wendy’s CEO: Workers ‘displaced’ by fire set at Atlanta franchise will remain on payroll

'The local franchisee who owns this restaurant is ensuring' that workers 'will have the option to remain employed at other restaurants in the area,' said the fast food chain's chief executive Todd Penegor.

Published: June 17, 2020 11:58am

Updated: June 18, 2020 11:58am

In a message to Wendy's' employees and franchisees released on June 14, 2020, the fast food chain' CEO Todd Penegor vowed to continue paying employees who were “displaced from work” because of the act of arson that destroyed a locally owned franchise in Atlanta, Ga.: 

“The tragic death of Rayshard Brooks, and the pain this has caused, saddens us all. Wendy’s has proudly served the Atlanta community for decades and seeing our restaurant burn was difficult, but we are extremely grateful that all of the team members remained safe. The local franchisee who owns this restaurant is ensuring that employees displaced from work will continue to be paid and will have the option to remain employed at other restaurants in the area.” 

Atlanta fire officials say the fire at the fast-food restaurant was started in multiple locations with incendiary methods and devices following the police killing of Rayshard Brooks on June 12, 2020. Mr. Brooks was shot twice in the back by Atlanta Police Department Officer Garrett Rolfe after he resisted arrest, dispossessed Rolfe’s partner, Officer Devin Brosnan of his taser, and fired at Rolfe over his shoulder as he fled on foot. Brooks died hours later at Grady Memorial Hospital. 

Images of the arsonists suspected of igniting the blaze have circulated online, showing one white female adding accelerant to the already burning Wendy’s. On June 16, the Atlanta Fire Department released an image of another suspect, a masked female clad in black.

Wendy’s Corporation had just six days earlier, on June 6, pledged to “donate at least $500,000 to support social justice” and “the youth and education in the Black community.”

According to Reuters, the fire blazed uninterrupted for at least 45 minutes. Fire Chief Randall B. Slaughter of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, who is black, attributed the slow response to his crew’s being “actually surrounded and denied access to the Wendy’s.” 

The situation, Randall said, became a “very dangerous environment for these firefighters,” who were pelted with “rocks and bricks.”

It is not clear if the arsonists knew that a Wendy’s employee was the person who reported Brooks to the police after she found him asleep at the wheel of his car and obstructing the drive-thru lane. 

Audio of the 911 tape of her reporting Brooks to the police revealed that she attempted unsuccessfully to wake him up. “I think he’s intoxicated,” she said.

Mr. Brooks’ blood alcohol content registered at .108, which is 35% above the legal limit in the state of Georgia. Body camera footage (18:50) of the incident showed Brooks failing several times to identify where he was correctly. 

The Atlanta Police Department and Georgia’s Arson Control Board are each offering a $10,000 reward for information that can lead to an arrest of the culprits responsible for starting the fire.

Wendy’s Corporation has not responded to a request for comment as of publication time. 

The author of this article was a casual acquaintance of Officer Devin Brosnan in college, but did not talk to him for this piece.


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