Homeless man sues Burger King for $1 million over 2015 discrimination incident

Emory Ellis, above, got a ride to the police station and more than three months in jail after he was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash after he tried to buy breakfast at Burger King using a $10 bill. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Homeless man sues Burger King for $1 million over 2015 discrimination incident

BOSTON: Emory Ellis, a black homeless man in Boston, was hungry so he went to Burger King one morning in 2015. But instead of breakfast, Ellis got a ride to the police station and more than three months in jail after he was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash, he says.
Now Ellis is suing the fast food giant and franchisee for nearly $1 million, saying he was discriminated against because of his appearance. The lawsuit comes on the heels of recent cases of police being called on black people that have sparked uproar and claims of racial profiling.
Ellis’ attorney said the cashier likely wouldn’t have questioned if the money was real if a white man in a suit handed him the same bill. Even if he did, the cashier probably would have apologized and said he couldn’t accept the cash instead of calling police, attorney Justin Drechsler said.
“A person like me would’ve gotten an apology, but a person like Emory somehow finds his way in handcuffs for trying to pay for his breakfast with real money,” said Drechsler, who’s white.
A Burger King Corp. spokesperson said the company does not tolerate discrimination “of any kind,” but cannot comment on the specifics of the case. The company said the franchisee is responsible for employee training and handling legal matters about the location.
Two Guys Foods, Inc., the franchisee, didn’t immediately return a phone message on Wednesday. A number for the cashier, who’s also named in the complaint, couldn’t be found in public records and it wasn’t immediately clear if he has a lawyer.
Ellis’ lawsuit, which was first reported by digital legal news service Law360, was filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court. He’s seeking $950,000.
Ellis was arrested in November 2015 and charged with forgery of a bank note. His arrest triggered a probation violation and he was held without bail until his final probation violation hearing, according to the lawsuit.
He wasn’t released from jail until February 2016, when prosecutors dropped the forgery charge after the Secret Service concluded Ellis’ bill was real, the lawsuit says.
Ellis, 37, never got his money back, the lawsuit says.
“Nobody deserves to be treated the way that Emory was treated,” Drechsler said.
The lawsuit comes weeks after the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and other cases that have shined a spotlight on minorities’ interactions with law enforcement.
Starbucks says its employees will receive racial-bias training after an employee called police on the black men because they hadn’t bought anything.
And at Yale University earlier this month, a white student called campus police about a black graduate student who had fallen asleep while working on a paper.


Tribal truckers, praying paramedics: mixed bag on last Daesh front

Updated 15 February 2019
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Tribal truckers, praying paramedics: mixed bag on last Daesh front

NEAR BAGHOUZ: As destitute civilians stumble out of the Daesh group’s last enclave in east Syria, a mixed bag of unlikely characters are pitching in to help get them to safety.
They include a team of medics led by an American veteran and his children as well as a group of truckers from a remote Syrian town.
Close to 40,000 have fled Daesh’s last Euphrates Valley bastions into territory held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, in pitiful conditions after weeks of bombardment and food shortages.
Citing security concerns, global aid agencies have kept their distance from the town of Baghouz where the jihadists are making a last stand and the SDF’s limited humanitarian capacities cannot cope with the influx.
Enter the Free Burma Rangers (FBR).
Led by a US veteran and passionate Christian, David Eubank, the team of around 25 volunteers — including his wife and three children — is camped out on a plateau overlooking Baghouz that serves as the first stop for fleeing civilians.
“We’re not qualified to be here. I asked God, what would I do here?” Eubank told AFP, dressed in military fatigues and a fishing hat, a pistol holstered on his hip.
“I felt God say: ‘Give up your own way. Just come help,’” he said.
In the distance, about two dozen civilians could be seen shuffling toward the plateau from Baghouz.
Eubank and another volunteer were the first to descend the sandy bank to meet them, hoisting displaced women’s overstuffed bags over their shoulders and helping children scramble up.


One bearded volunteer tended to a thin boy’s chest wound, shouting for antibiotics in English as the child stared at him in confusion.
Eubank established the FBR in Burma in 1997, with a slogan drawn from a Bible verse calling on people to “preach good news to the poor” and “release the oppressed.”
After Daesh swept across the region in 2014, the FBR expanded to Iraq, where Eubank, his wife and their three children became local celebrities for rescuing a young Iraqi girl after her mother was killed in fighting in Mosul.
What brought them to Syria? Another message from God, said Eubank’s eldest daughter, Sahale.
“We feel like God sent us here, otherwise we wouldn’t have wanted to come,” said the 18-year-old blonde, who usually drives wounded people to the main civilian point further on but was using a quiet afternoon to study Thai in the shade of an armored personnel carrier.
When they’re not treating civilians, the rest of the team spends their spare time jogging through the Syrian plain, praying, and doing “camp stuff,” said 24-year-old volunteer Tyler Sheen.
Sheen, from Colorado, said he felt he was in the right place to witness the end of IS.
“It’s the scourge, the most talked about evil in the world so I think it’s a great place to be right now,” he told AFP.
The volunteers inevitably strike an odd figure in the Syrian plain, surrounded by gruff Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters with whom they can only communicate through translators.
When the SDF’s spokesman visited their outpost recently, Eubank grabbed his hands to lead him in prayer as a translator stood between them, as if presiding over a marriage ceremony.


But if the Eubanks are inspired by goodwill, the truckers who form another key link in the evacuation of civilians from Baghouz are motivated by financial rewards.
Once displaced families are taken to a larger collection point further away, they are screened and guided onto the backs of cargo trucks to be driven about six hours north to the Al-Hol displacement camp.
Their 11 drivers are tribesmen from the town of Al-Shuhayl, hired by the SDF at a rate of 75,000 Syrian pounds ($150) for each round-trip, which usually takes two days.
“Wherever there’s a trip we can earn from, we do it,” said one driver in his forties, Farhan Al-Ali.
Some truckers said they rely on pills to stay awake through the 600-kilometer (380-mile) round trip.
“Sometimes we get to Al-Hol at two or three in the morning, then we drive all the way back to Shuhayl,” said Abu Hamud, a 54-year-old driver with a red-and-white scarf draped over his head.
They are used to shuttling cattle or farming equipment, so the dozens of veiled women and children are an unusual — and fragile — load.
The International Rescue Committee, which works in world crisis zones, said Wednesday that 51 people, mostly newborn children, had died after arriving at Al-Hol or during the “precarious journey.”
The United Nations has called on authorities to provide more suitable transportation like buses.
“My heart aches for the kids. They’re tiny and hungry,” said Abu Hamud. “I had a 20-day-old baby die in my truck.”