GUNS

Potential Firing Of Gun-Toting Pizza Delivery Driver Stokes Backlash

GUNS
Jan 15, 2015 at 8:04 AM ET

UPDATE at 1:08 p.m. EST on Jan. 15: Papa John’s spokeswoman Amy Salloum has sent Vocativ the following statement:

“The shooting that occurred during a Papa John’s delivery in Atlanta recently is a tragic event. The safety of Papa John’s employees is a top priority for our company. Company policy prohibits employees from utilizing firearms in the performance of their duties. We plan no changes to our current policy, which is designed to protect customers and employees. Upon investigation and considering the specific facts of the situation, we have reassigned the employee to work in the store and are offering her counseling to help her recuperate from the incident.”

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Papa John’s, the country’s fourth-largest pizza chain, is facing mounting social media backlash among customers worried that the company will fire a delivery driver who made national headlines this week for shooting an armed man during a robbery attempt.

According to reports, Donquaz Devon Stevenson, 24, ambushed the driver Sunday night when she tried to deliver a pizza in DeKalb County, Georgia. Waving a gun, the suspect allegedly forced the driver from her car and onto the ground. But the employee had a pistol of her own, which she used to deliver a bullet to Stevenson’s face, critically injuring him.

Though she escaped without injury (and has since earned accolades for her fearlessness), the delivery driver now stands to lose her job. Like its large-scale rivals Pizza Hut and Dominos, Papa John’s has a policy that prohibits employees from possessing concealed weapons at work.

Should this happen, however, hundreds from around the country have threatened to boycott the company through its Facebook page and by inundating Papa John’s corporate headquarters with emails and phone calls.

Thus far, Papa John’s has not issued any comment, nor indicated when it will decide whether the delivery driver still has a job. Vocativ also contacted Pizza Hut, Dominos and several other chains to discuss driver safety policies, but none responded to requests.

Regardless of the outcome, Sunday’s shooting underscores some of the danger that exist for the nation’s pizza delivery professionals. In the last six weeks alone, at least four delivery drivers from around the country have been killed while on the clock, including a Papa John’s employee who was stabbed to death in Maryland, according to media reports compiled by Vocativ. In the last year, at least 20 delivery drivers have been shot, eight of them fatally. Of the drivers who survived, three were shot in the head or face, including a woman who worked for Papa John’s in Florida.

Recognizing such perils, some drivers working for the big pizza chains have bucked company policy and decided to carry firearms for protection, but it hasn’t always turned out well for them. A Pizza Hut driver was fired in 2008 after shooting an armed robber in Des Moines, Iowa. And a Dominos delivery driver shot and killed a robbery suspect last year in Florida. It was not clear whether the driver, Bryon Park, was able to keep his job.

At least one pizza company in the U.S. has actively encouraged its employees to carry guns while making deliveries. An employee with the company, Aunt Polly’s Pizza in Indianapolis, got into a gunfight in 2010 with a customer who had pulled a weapon on him.

“Sometimes people are armed, sometimes they’re not,” owner Darrell Kreitzer said at the time.”You just never know what you are going to run into,”