For many Prep students, McDonald’s is a favorite destination for delectable and mildly quality treats such as McChickens, double cheeseburgers, and French fries. In the Prep neighborhood on the lower west side of Erie, there are two regional McDonald’s restaurants for the students to patron: the Sassafras McDonald’s on the corner of W. 12th Street and Sassafras, just two blocks from Prep, as well as the McDonald’s on the corner of West 5th and State Street.
On any normal school day, and especially on noon dismissal days, both of these two fast food locations may have lines out the door filled with Prep students. However, despite the lovability that these two McDonalds’ so possess, there have been multiple events at these two locations in the past few months that have lead students to question their local eating habits that include McDonald’s as a key ingredient in their questionably well-balanced and nutritional diet. And it’s not GMOs.
Of course the biggest incident embedded in students’ minds was last year’s April 26th robbery of the Sassafras McDonald’s. It happened when a man with a knife entered the eatery, walked up to the counter and handed a counter worker a note demanding money. The man hid a knife in his sleeve, according to Erie Police Chief Randy Bowers (unrelated to beloved Prep senior Jacob Bowers). The close proximity of the episode caused school administration to institute a school-wide lockdown until police determined the area was safe.
Though the robbery ended without any bloodshed, the Sassafras McDonald’s had another incident on Christmas Eve when a 35-year-old man was found dead inside of the bathroom. Erie City Police say the man was found unresponsive by a manager. It will take toxicology reports a month to confirm a cause of death. However, the thought of finding a deceased man in a local burger joint can be quite frightening for local students.
Even the State Street McDonald’s is not immune to these strange happenings. On the evening of Jan. 3, the location was the target of a bomb threat that was called in by an unknown suspect. The threat lead to the closing of the McDonald’s as well as a large section of downtown Erie for several hours as the Erie City Police and Bomb Squad swept the building for a bomb, though none was discovered.
The recent events at the local McDonald’s are not to be taken lightly as they can reflect badly on the area. Prep senior and foreign exchange student, Xuanhao Chen expressed his concern over the safety of the McDonald’s area. “I no longer go to the McDonald’s by myself. I go there only if I have company with me, or I just do the drive thru,” explained Chen.
Whether or not you are an occasional fast food eater or a burger fanatic, the strange happenings at the neighborhood McDonald’s restaurants may make you stop and question your routine. For those who continue to patron these McDonald’s locations, the best advice is to keep your eyes open and to report any suspicious behavior.