KING News Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer
Perey Law Group – KING News
MALE VOICE: For the first time, we hear from a man who was paralyzed after being shot in a Denny’s restaurant in Kent.
FEMALE VOICE: He’s one of three people filing suit after they were injured two years ago in a brawl over a table. KING 5’s Lori Matsukawa joins us now. She is live in satellite control. Laurie?
LORI MATSUKAWA: Jean, the injured victims are filing suit because they say the Denny’s in Kent has yet to take steps to protect customers and employees from late-night rowdies.
STEVE TOLENOA: Play softball, basketball.
LORI MATSUKAWA: Sports 30-year-old Steven Tolenoa can no longer play. The former postal worker is paralyzed from the waist down and has no use of his hands after he was shot in a Kent Denny’s restaurant two years ago.
Tolenoa was sitting at a table at about 2:00 in the morning on January 21st, 2007, when 23-year-old Frank Lee Evans began shooting at a group of people he said were sitting in his booth. Evans was sentenced to more than 63 years for injuring five people, Tolenoa worst of all.
STEVE TOLENOA: There was a fight broke out. And he started running for the doors. So I stood up. And next thing I know, I was on the floor.
LORI MATSUKAWA: Tolenoa and two other shooting victims are suing Denny’s for not providing a safe environment for customers. The Associated Press reports since January 2007, there have been 338 police calls to that Denny’s, resulting in 65 investigations. The victim’s attorney says Denny’s needs to protect its patrons and employees.
RON PEREY: Hiring a security guard, off-duty police officer, which many Denny’s have done around the country and other 24-hour restaurants, or secondly, close the place down between 12:00 and 5:00.
LORI MATSUKAWA: In a statement, Denny’s, headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina–
[GRAPHIC: “THIS WAS A TRAGIC SITUATION. UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE UNABLE TO COMMENT ON PENDING LITIGATION.” – CORI RICE, DENNY’S SPOKESPERSON]
LORI MATSUKAWA: –says this was a tragic situation. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on pending litigation.
Since the shooting two years ago, Denny’s has built a wall between it and a neighboring tavern. But attorneys say it’s not enough. And Tolenoa is worried about those who choose to dine there in the future.
RON PEREY: We want to raise the consciousness, both of the community and of Denny’s, that there is a culture of danger and do what’s right.
STEVE TOLENOA: And none of this would every happen to someone else.
LORI MATSUKAWA: Apparently, late-night violence is not uncommon in 24-hour restaurants. According to Tolenoa’s attorneys, since 1994, at least 25 people have been injured, shot, and eight people killed in Denny’s restaurants in various states.
And that does not count what happened in Kent. In satellite control, Lori Matsukawa, KING 5 News.