HOUSTON (CN) — A married couple just wanted the curly fries they had paid for in the drive-thru of a Jack in the Box in Houston. But they say in a lawsuit an employee of the restaurant yelled at them to leave before pulling a gun and firing at them.
Seeking $250,000 to $1 million damages, Anthony Ramos and his wife Jeraldin Ospina, for herself and their daughter, sued Alonniea Fantasia Ford, Jack in the Box Inc. and its franchisee A3H Foods General Partner LLC, which operates the restaurant near George Bush Intercontinental Airport where the incident occurred.
Ramos and Ospina live in Florida but Ramos’ employer sent him to Houston in February 2021 to help restore electricity in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, according to their lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Harris County District Court.
Pregnant at the time, Ospina took a flight from Miami to Houston with the couple’s then-6-year-old daughter on March 3, 2021, to visit Ramos, as recounted in the complaint.
He picked them up in his friend’s SUV and they pulled into a Jack in the Box drive-thru around 11:30 p.m. and ordered a meal with curly fries. Ford handed them their bag of food and they told her it was missing the fries.
They say Ford refused to give them their fries and became irate after they asked to speak to a manager.
“Ford began cursing at plaintiffs and yelling at them to ‘get the f*** outta here!!’ Plaintiffs started arguing with defendant Alonniea Fantasia Ford. At some point during the argument, defendant Alonniea Fantasia Ford threw ketchup, ice, and other items at plaintiffs inside their car,” the complaint states.
Ford pulled out a gun. Ramos hit the gas as Ford squeezed the trigger and a bullet grazed the back of the SUV. The couple’s daughter was sitting in the back seat.
“I was dumbfounded about it. I couldn’t believe it happened. I’m glad I reacted the way I did. It was scary. Very, very scary. … And my initial reaction was to call the police once I was in a safe area,” Ramos said during a virtual press conference his attorneys put on Wednesday to publicize the lawsuit.
Houston police arrested Ford, 29, and she was charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She spent six days in jail but reached a deal with prosecutors in June, pleading guilty to misdemeanor deadly conduct.
She was sentenced to one year of deferred adjudication, a type of probation that allows a defendant to avoid having the conviction permanently on their record if they abide by the terms of their release.
Ford’s rap sheet includes a September 2012 misdemeanor conviction for making a terroristic threat. She pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, court records show.
“Jack in the Box, of course, with just the simplest of research could have found that,” said Randall Kallinen, a Houston civil rights attorney representing the family. “Anybody in the public can find it within a matter of minutes. You just go to the Harris County District Clerk’s website and it pops up, the whole criminal history.”
According to Ramos and his lawyers, they filed suit in part to raise awareness about the hiring practices of Jack in the Box and its franchisee A3H Foods.
“What’s important in these kinds of cases is the control the corporate parent has over the local franchise. And through the exercise of that control with its policies, procedures and training, much has gone wrong to allow this to happen,” said the family’s co-counsel Mark Underwood of McKinney, Texas.
Jack in the Box’s corporate legal department did not immediately respond Wednesday to a phone message seeking comment on the lawsuit. An employee of A3H Foods, which operates more than 15 Jack in the Box restaurants in Texas and Oklahoma, declined to comment.
The shooting frightened Ramos’ and Ospina’s daughter so much she is seeing a counselor, Kallinen said.
Ramos, Ospina and their daughter brought claims of gross negligence, negligence and negligent hiring against Jack in the Box and A3H Foods. They sued Ford for assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress, in addition to negligence claims.Follow @@cam_langford
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.