A Taco Bell manager in Redding, Calif., is under fire after allegedly ordering employees to lock a homeless man in the restaurant's waste receptacle.
The man, whose name was only given as "Josh," was allegedly trapped in a cardboard recycling bin for more than an hour on Saturday morning, according to Redding.com.
Jacob Cook, a teenager eating breakfast at the Taco Bell, said he overheard an employee tell restaurant manager Darin Hailey that a homeless man was sleeping in the waste receptacle. Cook claims Hailey laughed and told the employee to put the bar over the contaner and close the gate around it.
Cook followed the Taco Bell employee outside and was shocked by what he saw.
"He didn't even open the Dumpster, talk to the guy or anything, he just closed this bar, latched the gate and then walked back inside," he told KRCR-TV.
According to Redding Police, "an employee of Taco Bell who closed and locked dumpster enclosure gate, trapping [the man] inside and then threw a bag of trash over the enclosure on top of [him]."
Upset, Cook confronted Hailey, who told the teen not to tell him how to do his job. He then ordered Cook off the property.
Cook complied, but called Redding police and waited offsite until they arrived.
"Over the time that this was happening the guy actually banged on the trash can a couple times so I knew that he was in there," Cook told the station.
Hailey decries Cook's allegations as "extremely false."
“The gentleman was sleeping in the Dumpster. We simply closed the dumpster gates... per city ordinance. The Dumpster itself was unlocked at all times. Nothing was locked... the lid has to remain closed or the city fines us a bunch of money,” Hailey said according to RawStory.com. "The gates (to the enclosure that surrounds the Dumpster) can be opened from in or outside. There is no locking mechanism to it... I tried to tell (Jacob), he’s not locked in.”
Although the Dumpster has a bar that seals it from the outside, Hailey claims someone with the strength of a 16-year-old should have been able to lift it.
“All you have to do is push and it pops open. There is no physical way to lock that Dumpster. I can’t stress that enough... It doesn’t matter if the bar was in place or not -- it doesn’t lock it. I assure you, I’m not the devil and I’m not locking people in my Dumpsters,” he said.
Taco Bell corporate officials are supporting Hailey's contention and sent this statement to Consumerist.com:
"We are an organization that puts people first, from our team members, to franchisees, to customers and the people in the communities in which we serve. These rumors are completely untrue and are not a reflection of our values."
Cook is still shaken by the incident, but has befriended Josh by buying him coffee and a $35 pair of shoes.
KRCR-TV reported that Josh returned the favor by giving Cook a dollar bill with the words "I HOPE" written on it.
CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly Darin Hailey's first name as "Darrin." The video comes from KRCR-TV, not KRC as previously reported.