Rachelle Walker was working on a client’s hair in her in-home salon when the mystifying texts from her husband appeared on her phone.
“Something is vey [sic] wrong with me,” Trevor Walker wrote. “I am having sensations in my arms and everything is moving slowly. I’m feeling scared. I don’t know what to do.”
Moments later: “I’m so scared I’m trying to be calm. I need you.”
Rachelle Walker ran into the living area of the house to find her husband facedown on the floor, unconscious after drinking a Diet Coke the family says was laced with a synthetic heroin substitute when he bought it at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Riverton in 2016.
Now Trevor Walker is suing McDonald’s and Swire Coca-Cola, arguing that not only did the drug end up in the drink due to negligence but the restaurant’s security video footage from that night was deleted, which precluded criminal charges.
McDonald’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives with the Coca-Cola distributor declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is still pending.
Trevor Walker went to the Riverton location Aug. 12, 2016, ordering meals for his family of five. He bought Diet Cokes for himself and his wife, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in 3rd District Court.
But shortly after he got to his home nearby, Walker began noticing something was wrong. As he held his baby and tried to type an email, his fingers wouldn’t respond. He lost feeling in his arms and legs, and his vision became distorted.
After handing the baby to his older child, he sent the two text messages to his wife and collapsed, the lawsuit states.
He was unconscious for at least a minute after Rachelle Walker found him on the floor, their three sons — then ages 1, 3 and 8 — watching from an adjacent room as she roused him. He eventually began mumbling her name and telling her he couldn’t feel his hands or feet, she recalled.
“When I was coming to, I did start to wonder, ‘Am I dying?’” Trevor Walker said.
Rachelle Walker called neighbors to watch the kids and drove her husband to a hospital, where a urinalysis showed there was Suboxone — a narcotic often used to treat opioid addiction — in his system, according the lawsuit.
The meals and drinks were still out on the table, Trevor Walker said. His wife frantically called home and asked the neighbors to bring everything to the hospital.
“She was terrified [the children] had access to it, or they had it in their food,” Trevor Walker said. At the hospital, Rachelle Walker examined the Diet Cokes, according to the lawsuit, and noticed that her husband’s had “speckles and a film on the surface.” She called police.
Crime lab officials later confirmed that Walker’s soda contained the narcotic.
The lawsuit says no arrests were made after a Unified police investigation, though police officials were not immediately available to confirm that. Walker says in the lawsuit that police had a suspect — the younger brother of the McDonald’s manager — but security footage from the day in question was deleted.
The restaurant instead gave to police footage from Aug. 13, 2016, the day after Trevor Walker’s poisoning, said Brady Brammer, the Walkers’ attorney. When investigators asked for video from the correct day — including footage of the area where drinks were prepared — restaurant employees said it was erased automatically after 30 days, according to Brammer.
“You’re supposed to preserve all the evidence,” Brammer said. Restaurant employees also said they couldn’t provide accurate records of who was working that night, Trevor Walker said — evidence that should be “a simple paper trail,” he added.
The suspect “was a known drug user,” the lawsuit states, “had posted on social media about his drug use, and had posted about disrespecting McDonald’s customers through the Drive-Thru window.”
The manager and employee suspected of lacing the drink quit their jobs after police interviewed them, according to the lawsuit.
“There’s some guy out there who can just do it again,” Trevor Walker said.
The contaminated drink interacted with Trevor Walker’s medication, the lawsuit states, and created a “substantial risk of death” by impairing his breathing.
“Thinking about not having Trevor — that’s the worst part,” Rachelle Walker said, her eyes filling with tears.
Since the poisoning, Trevor Walker has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety, according to the lawsuit.
“These have required Trevor to seek counseling, have interrupted his closest relationships, have impacted his work, have disrupted his sleep and diet habits, and have caused severe distress,” the lawsuit states.
Rachelle Walker said the family often opts to “hide out in our home and not go out” because eating food prepared by other people has become so nerve-wracking.
“I know it’s irrational to think this is going to happen [to us] again, but that doesn’t change that my brain won’t stop thinking about it,” Trevor Walker said. “It could have been anybody. It could have been my kids.”
His eldest son also has struggled, Trevor Walker said.
“It’s hard to explain when your dad is suddenly flopping around the house and then blacked out,” he said.
The lawsuit says McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are at fault because the two companies should have ensured that their product was “safe and fit for human consumption.” The corporations also have a duty to properly supervise, train and monitor their employees, the lawsuit states.
Brammer confirmed that Trevor Walker has negotiated with local representatives of the restaurant but did not accept their settlement offer.
“We wanted McDonald’s to take responsibility for what happened,” Trevor Walker said. “There’s nobody interested in making sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Walker seeks an unspecified amount in damages, including payment for medical bills and loss of earnings.