News of the suspension without pay of a Springfield, Missouri, Pizza Hut employee and felon, who said he had a "good old-fashioned gunfight" with an alleged intruder is sweeping the nation's media outlets today. The story is eliciting irate responses from many who say the employee is a "hero" who should be commended, not suspended.
William Hotop, 31, told USA Today that he was inside the store after closing when the alleged intruder beat on the store's glass door, prompting him to run for "where he knew he could find a gun inside the restaurant." However, Hotop also told the paper that he had a past felony conviction, which prohibits him from actually owning his own gun. The ownership of the gun he said was inside the store was not revealed, but both after both men were armed, the alleged intruder, Hotop said, reached for something in his pocket, so Hotop leveled his gun at him. The man reciprocated, and they both fired their weapons.
"It was a good old-fashioned gunfight. I protected (Pizza Hut) like it was my home. I love my job," Hotop told the reporter.
When police arrived, the man had fled, and the store had no security footage, and there were no injuries. A Springfield area police report said that a group of teens in the store's parking lot was robbed at gunpoint just before the encounter at the restaurant door. Police said that encounter also involved a man kicking that same restaurant door in.
Pizza Hut responded to requests for more details this afternoon by releasing this statement through the communication company, Zeno Group, saying:
"The local Pizza Hut franchise is fully cooperating with the Springfield Police Department as they continue their investigation, but want to stress that the security of its team and the community is of utmost concern," the company said in the Zeno Group email. "As in any case involving a police investigation, the employees involved are on leave of absence while authorities gather information."
Stories published by USA Today and Springfield News-Leader said Pizza Hut not only fired a manager working that same night, but suspended Hotop without pay as well. QSR Web has asked Zeno Group and media relations personnel at parent company, Yum Brands for further details about ownership of the gun and elements of the incident, but has thus far received no response to those questions.
Meawhile though, news of the occurrence has been sitting well with readers from around the nation.
"Unless Pizza Hut takes action to SWIFTLY rectify this situation, my family's last visit to 'The Hut' will have been our last. It's that simple!" commented a reader in Waterville, Maine.
Another reader asked, "I wonder how much it would cost the store if the robber had shot the employees and their families sued for not protecting the workers?"
And finally there were brand-punishing statements like this one, "No good deed goes unpunished. Message to all would be Pizza Hut robbers: "come and rob us, no one will stop you....at least not with a gun!"
QSR Web will report any further information as it is obtained.