Former Whataburger employee says refusal of officers was a joke

LEWISVILLE – The story of a now-former Whataburger employee denying service to two police officers went viral Wednesday, but that former employee told us there are two sides to every story and the incident was just a misunderstanding.

Michael Magovern, who says he was refused service by the employee, is a city marshal in Strawn, Texas. He was back at the Lewisville Whataburger for lunch Wednesday at the request of Whataburger corporate staff, who asked him to come so they could apologize.

"No person should make that comment to anybody," Marshal Magovern said.

News 8 spoke to the former employee — who said he has received death threats and asked not to be identified — Wednesday.

The marshal and another officer say they stopped into the Whataburger off of Interstate 35 near Main Street Tuesday night and were told, "We don't serve police officers," by the employee.

Magovern said he thought the employee was joking, but when he asked the employee if it was supposed to be a joke, he said nothing.

"The gentleman behind the counter said 'We don't serve police officers,'" Magovern said. "No smile. No hilarity. Nothing."

Whataburger fired the employee, who is in his 50s and has worked at the restaurant for nine years, on Wednesday. He told News 8 he was sorry for the comment and the attention it has drawn.

"I want to apologize to [Whataburger,]" he said through tears. "I love all y'all, and I'm going to miss working for you all."

He told us the marshal's initial thought was correct. Coworkers know he likes to joke around, and he says that's what he was doing with his comment to the officers.

"First, I thought, 'Oh man, this is a shame — all over a joke,'" he said. "I'm joking around with the police, and I lose my job, something I've had over nine years."

He also claims he tried to explain that it was a joke to the officers.

"I told them, 'Look man, it was just a joke, And I apologize if y'all took it the wrong way," the former employee told News 8. "I said, 'It was just a joke, I do that to a lot of police officers.'"

The former employee said at one point, one of the officers said to him, "We're going to make you a star tonight."

The officer who filed the complaint with Whataburger's corporate offices is convinced there was nothing funny about it, and claims the worker never said it was a joke.

"Usually, if you joke with someone and you get an uneasy feeling about the joke you made, you go out of your way to say, 'Listen guys, seriously, I was joking. My bad, I apologize, it was bad tenor,'" Marshal Magovern said.

A day later, bad joke or not, the employee is without a job and he said he feels for his coworkers.

Whataburger released this statement regarding the situation Wednesday morning:

"We were appalled to hear of an employee refusing service to two officers, as we have proudly served first responders across our system for decades. As soon as we heard of this isolated incident, we began our own internal investigation overnight. The employee that refused service is no longer employed with Whataburger. We've also invited the officers back today so we can apologize in person and make this right."


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