Brooke Leigh Howard
An emergency rescue chief’s racist and homophobic diatribe has caused his entire fire and rescue squad to lose its contract with a local North Carolina government, forcing him to—belatedly—resign from his post.
Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary Chief Shannon Worrell, who is also a co-founder of the organization, was caught on camera getting spicy with employees at the Whiteville location of San Jose Mexican Restaurant on July 24.
Surveillance footage WECT 6 News captured Worrell insulting a female server after he asked how her daughter—who also worked at the restaurant—could have two mothers. “I guarantee y’all didn’t make a child,” he told the women. Then, during a disagreement over the gratuity for his dinner party, he used racial slurs, the restaurant manager told the outlet.
On Monday night, county commissioners voted 6-1 to axe Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary’s contract to provide emergency medical services to Columbus County.
In a press release provided to The Daily Beast Tuesday, the board of commissioners said the county would work with “other emergency medical providers to ensure no lapse of service occurs in the Lake Waccamaw area or the district. …As future long-term plans for emergency services develop, details will be released.”
Columbus County Attorney Amanda Prince declined to elaborate as to why the commissioners chose to boot the entire service.
Brianna Smith, the server on the receiving end of Worrell’s homophobic comment, penned a Facebook post after the incident that began, “Isn’t Shannon Worrell supposed to be a professional? Then why come in San Jose and make a scene and make racist comments?”
She added that he made “comments about my child working at this time of night. I told him not to make comments about my child and then my wife proceeded to tell him the same thing. …Not only is this public servant racist, i guess he is also homophobic.”
She later told WECT 6 that his comment did not emotionally affect her as much as it did her daughter.
“Initially, I was stunned that he would say something like that because I’m prior law enforcement. So, I actually worked side-by-side with him and his crew on multiple different occasions,” Smith said. “I was just really shocked that would come from him, but I guess I didn’t know him initially.”
During the same visit, Worrell argued with waitstaff when a gratuity was automatically added to the bill, claiming that he left cash on the table and felt like he was being charged twice, according to the outlet.
Restaurant manager Adan Velasquez, who is Latino, told WECT 6 he explained that the tip was automatically added for large parties but Worrell “started to say some racial slurs. [He said,] ‘You should die whenever you cross the river… [We] should close the border and send you all back.’”
Velasquez said it grew so heated that he called police but Worrell’s wife managed to get him to leave the restaurant. On the way out, Smith said, he gave Smith’s 14-year-old son the finger.
According to WECT 6, Worrell contacted Smith on July 27 to deliver a half-ass apology.
“Not going to fuss about who is right or wrong but I sincerely apologize for anything that upset you,” he wrote, the outlet reported.
After Monday night’s vote, Columbus County News reported Worrell publicly resigned from his position with Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary.
“I have been told that the county is terminating the [Lake Waccamaw] EMS contract regardless. I do not understand this decision in regards to the department as there are numerous other members that were not involved,” he reportedly wrote on Facebook. “I would like to conclude by saying I am sorry to the community, all involved, and the department.”
Worrell did not provide a comment to The Daily Beast in time for publication Tuesday.