Cook Out incident results in two fired, police chief responds

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A Cook Out cashier refusing service to a member of the Roxboro Police Department early Thursday morning has resulted in the termination of the cashier and manager.

The manager on duty at the time, Taren Woods, said the cashier on duty closed the restaurant’s front window and asked another cashier to take Sgt. Kenneth Horton’s order.

Woods said that a cashier who doesn’t feel comfortable taking someone’s order can ask to have someone else do it or contact the manager.

When another employee came to take Horton’s order, he asked why the first cashier wouldn’t take his order.

“The other casher said they didn’t know and then he just left,” Woods said.

Woods said she was working in the back of the restaurant during the incident and was told about it by the cashiers. When Woods got to the front window the police car was still there.

“The car was still there, so I expected him to come back and I would happily take his order,” Woods said.

Woods said she was not contacted about the incident Thursday while she was off work, but began receiving calls Friday asking why she wouldn’t serve law enforcement.

Woods said the Cook Out district manager came in while she was working Friday without speaking to her until she clocked out when he asked about the situation.

According to Woods, the district manager fired her for not taking control of the situation and said she should have gone outside to take Horton’s order. However, Woods said that would have been against a company policy which states that employees are not allowed outside the building after 9:45 p.m.

According to Woods, the district manager referred to a ticket Horton issued the cashier, but the cashier said she has experienced Horton being rude to Cook Out employees in the past.

Hess confirmed that the cashier, Tamara McGhee, received a citation from Horton for littering in the Roses parking lot.

Since being fired, Woods said she has received messages from people accusing her of being racist and not serving law enforcement.

“How can I be racist?” Woods said. “He’s black. I’m black. It doesn’t make sense.”

Woods said she’s a victim of an incident that she wasn’t involved in.

“I’m concerned that future jobs won’t hire me because of this when I didn’t know about it until it had happened and then he left,” Woods said.

Roxboro Chief of Police David Hess has refuted claims that his officer was not denied service but was passed on to another employee.

“It is not accurate that he was passed off,” Hess said. “He was refused service and then left.”

Hess said he first found out about the incident through social media and was informed of the event by Horton “within 24 hours.”

Hess would not disclose what he was told by Horton, calling it is a personnel issue.

Hess said there has not been any conflict between Cook Out’s corporate parent and his department.

“This is really a corporate issue,” Hess said. “It’s an issue between Cook Out and their employees.”

Hess said he has been contacted by someone with Cook Out’s corporate office, who informed him of the two employees firing for violations of company policy. Hess said he informed the Cook Out representatives that the story was gaining local and national traction.

Hess said his department never reached out to make the incident public, but it was raised to the public’s attention through social media posts from residents.

“The Police Department has been blamed for releasing this to the media,” Hess said. “That is not accurate.”

Hess praised Horton’s service to country and city.

“Sgt. Horton has served honorably in the Army and Police Department,” Hess said.

Hess said he understands the public’s reactions.

“I understand the outrage at this firing, but questions on the firing should be directed to Cook Out corporate,” Hess said. “At no point did the Police Department ask for these employees to be fired.”

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