Video Shows Broom Attack at Flushing McDonald’s

by SUEVON LEE | @suevlee

Note: This post has been updated to include a statement from McDonald’s Corp. 

Last week, CBS2 in New York broadcasted the surveillance video, which shows in grainy detail a confrontation between a McDonald’s cashier and elderly Korean man, in which the employee walks behind the counter, grabs a broom and brandishes it at the customer, knocking a camera phone out of his hands.

The patron, 62-year-old James Jin Kim of Flushing, claims he was attacked after he complained to the cashier, Rooshi Sajjad, about having to wait too long to order a coffee.

In a lawsuit filed in Queens Civil Supreme Court in April, Kim alleges that the employee then yelled at him, “We don’t serve coffee to people like you,” and “Get out of my restaurant!” after which Kim proceeded to pull out a phone to record the exchange. That’s when Sajjad came around from behind the counter and “struck [Kim’s] right hand with the wooden handle end, barely missing his head and eyes,” the lawsuit alleges.

The Feb. 16 incident took place just weeks after tensions flared at a nearby McDonald’s in Flushing, where restaurant managers contacted police several times to remove elderly Koreans—regular patrons they believed were lingering at tables too long after ordering only a cup of coffee.

As Korean community leaders urged a boycott of McDonald’s at the time for its handling of the situation, Assemblyman Ron Kim stepped in and brokered a dispute, according to the New York Times.

The February incident involving James Kim, despite occurring around this same time frame, only came to the attention of Korean community leaders when CBS2 aired the surveillance video on Dec. 29, said Christina Colligan, co-president of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York.

Last week, she and other Korean community groups organized a protest outside the Main Street McDonald’s in Flushing where the incident took place.

“We decide to have a demonstration because the previous incident happened early January about the senior citizens [being] removed by police,” Colligan told KoreAm by phone. “I can’t believe they did it again. They didn’t learn the lesson from last January.”

According to the Times, Sajjad, the broom-wielding McDonald’s cashier, was arrested and charged by the Queens District Attorney’s Office with attempted assault, criminal possession of a weapon and harassment. She will avoid prosecution if she avoids future disruption for a six-month period that began last August.

Meanwhile, Kim, a U.S. citizen who arrived in the country 20 years ago and works as a wallpaper installer, is pressing forward with a $10 million lawsuit that names Sajjad and McDonald’s Corp. as defendants, for claims that include unlawful discrimination, civil battery, civil assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In the lawsuit, Kim alleges that his fingers were left bruised by the attack, that the incident caused him “substantial pain and suffering” and that he was “humiliated” by Sajjad’s “racial epithets.”

In a statement to KoreAm, the owner of the McDonald’s franchise, Luigi Solimeo, said, “Our family-owned restaurant business has proudly served the Flushing community for over 20 years and remains committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for all our guests and employees. As this is a legal matter, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”

The suit has not progressed too far along, although McDonald’s had refused when asked by Kim’s attorney, Christine Bae, to turn over the restaurant’s surveillance tape. So the attorney filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the Queens DA’s office to obtain the footage, hence its production in the public eye 10 months after the incident.

In an interview with KoreAm, Bae, of the law firm Kim & Bae, said the amount of damages sought is intended to send a strong signal to McDonald’s Corp. about employee behavior that should not be condoned.

“I don’t think even 10 million is a lot of money given the context,” Bae said. “This is not just an isolated event in my view; everything is intertwined, between the other McDonald’s [incident] and this.”

“McDonald’s is not some diner or some Korean restaurant,” she added. “It’s a global corporation, and it represents places where our kids go. I think McDonald’s should look at this and say, ‘Maybe we should apologize or do something.’

“I think that would be a good start,” she said.


Photo credit: Andrew Schwartz/New York Daily News