Columbus County investigating EMS chief’s alleged racist comments

As more details come to light on offensive comments an EMS chief made at a Mexican restaurant, Columbus County leaders have launched an investigation.
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 4:40 PM EDT
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WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - As more details come to light on offensive comments an EMS chief made at a Mexican restaurant, Columbus County leaders have launched an investigation into the incident.

Shannon Worrell is a chief of Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary. Just over a week ago, he and a large party had dinner at the San Jose Mexican Restaurant in Whiteville.

The problem started Sunday, July 24, when Worrell and staff members disagreed on gratuity being added to the bill. Worrell felt that he was charged twice since he had already left cash on the table. Restaurant manager Adan Velasquez says that even if he did leave a cash tip, it’s policy to add gratuity for parties of six or more.

As WECT previously reported, Worrell made comments about how a same-sex couple couldn’t both be parents of a child who worked at the restaurant, saying “I guarantee y’all didn’t make no child.” That comment was audible on security camera footage.

“I’ve seen the guy in here before and it shocked me that he had said that,” said restaurant manager Adan Velasquez. “Hurt a little bit.”

The rest of the footage was muffled but staff members claim he also made racist comments toward staff members.

“The first thing I heard was him talking about my manager Adan and about how he was just a sorry [expletive], he was sarcastic and just a piece of [expletive],” said Brianna Smith, an employee at the restaurant.

“After a while, he started saying some racial slurs -- ‘you should’ve died whenever you crossed the river over here,’ ‘we should close the border and send you all back,’” said Velasquez. “After that, it kind of got out of hand, so I had to call the cops to try to get him out of here. His wife had come in here and got him out.”

Velasquez says police arrived after Worrell had already left.

Columbus County administrators are looking into the claims that Worrell made those racist comments. When asked for comment, the county’s attorney said an official statement will come later this week and they have no further comments at this time.

Worrell did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, but he denied making the racist comments when asked about it last week. He told WECT he hopes the incident doesn’t change how people think of Lake Waccamaw Fire & Rescue Auxiliary.

“It does bother me a little bit,” said Velasquez. “What if he wasn’t the only one that’s racist there in that community and he’s the only one that’s come out? It worries me a little bit for other people.”

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