Casey Rich called from his hospital bed in Modesto, a tube in his chest inflating a lung punctured by a DoorDasher’s knife in a Ceres McDonald’s 35 hours before.
Suffering with 10 stab wounds and a little hyped on pain medicine, Rich was upset at the newspaper. He thought readers were getting the wrong idea about what brought on the knife attack, because the article’s first sentence explained that the unnamed victim — Rich — had “made an offensive comment” to the assailant’s wife.
Having heard his story on the telephone, and later in person, and having viewed the tussle and stabbing as recorded by Rich’s 13-year-old daughter on a cell phone, I can say this: The Modesto Bee’s report was spot on. Not a word was twisted or misleading, as presented by our reporter relying on information from Ceres police.
I can also say that there is more to the story.
If you’re not intrigued at blood spattered on the walls of a local restaurant, or the violent defense of a woman’s honor, or the image of sobbing workers trying to stanch a 34-year-old’s wounds with their fast food aprons, feel free to stop reading. Otherwise, Rich’s story might be worth a look. Here it is.
Standing against verbal abuse
Returning from jiu-jitsu training in Modesto on Aug. 1, Rich and his daughter stop at the Hatch Road eatery to share a 20-piece McNuggets meal. Inside, a pacing woman grows increasingly agitated that the food she and her husband, who is waiting outside in their car, are expected to deliver for DoorDash isn’t ready. She suggests in a raised voice that her customer’s order should be prioritized. Others waiting become uncomfortable.
“I say, `They’re doing the best they can; you don’t have to be rude,’” Rich recalled. When she persists, Rich remarks, “Well, maybe you should get a real job.”
I think we can all agree those words were badly chosen and rashly uttered. Reflecting three days later, Rich readily assents.
“I had pure intentions. My flaw was a sassy comment,” he says.
“But I’m a foodie. I don’t think she should get a real job because it is a real job.”
So is working at McDonald’s.
Who among us has not been disappointed at slow fast food? Who hasn’t been handed the wrong item, or a tray or bag missing something we ordered and paid for?
Are we always patient? Do we sometimes raise our voice, demand respect and better treatment? Do we ascribe evil motives? Make a scene?
Rich doesn’t like seeing that.
Raised in Ceres, he acknowledges a rough upbringing. ADHD and class-clown behavior didn’t help in school, but did help him develop a heart for kids who don’t always fit in. Now he works with special ed students as a paraprofessional, a job demanding unusual patience, and he aspires to be a teacher. He just started a second job at Modesto Junior College’s Great Valley Museum, doing tours for students and families. He volunteers with the PTA, serves on two school committees and coaches basketball at Central Valley High.
“I believe in sticking up for people. It’s what I do in education. I believe in sticking up and speaking out,” he said, “because if no one does, it gets worse.”
But it can get you in trouble.
Madness and mayhem
The offended woman’s husband charged into the restaurant, Rich said, and began throwing punches. Rich’s daughter stepped back and began filming.
The recording shows Rich, who weighs 175 pounds, with his arms about the waist of the much larger man, who seems unable to land blows. Rich gets him in a headlock, then uses a free hand to pull the guy’s wallet from a rear pocket, check for ID and toss it down (which apparently made it easy for police to find and arrest him later). Things seem to settle a bit before the Dasher’s hand goes in another pocket and comes out with a knife.
Rich doesn’t realize that the rapid punches to his torso that follow are really knife thrusts, until he realizes that he’s been stabbed — once each in the shoulder and leg, and eight times in his back and side. One blow breaches ribs, collapsing a lung. Rich goes down, the man runs away and the recording ends.
Rich said he stumbled to the kitchen, where a shocked manager and a younger woman helped to slow the bleeding until an ambulance arrived. Someone called his wife, Angelina, who got there quickly. He told her and his daughter everything was OK, but he had lost a lot of blood and secretly believed he would not make it.
His vision went dark on the ride to Doctors Medical Center, he said. Upon arriving, the doors swung open and he said, “Hold on — did anyone get my chicken nuggets?”
Video footage seems to corroborate Rich’s version of defending himself against someone who couldn’t win a fight picked against a smaller man and resorts to a deadly weapon. DoorDash immediately fired Brandon Eugene Sells, the company told our reporter. The 38-year-old faces a charge of attempted murder and remains behind bars with bail set at $705,000.
Count your blessings
One of the stab wounds touches the edge of a tattoo on Rich’s upper back that reads: “Count your blessings, not your stressings.” He chose it, he says, because it’s meaningful and a little off-beat. The jagged wound now is bound with four staples.
Rich tells his story to provide context missing from terse police reports, and by extension, from newspaper accounts. But he also has a message, one he admits he’s still learning himself.
“We live in a really nasty world,” Rich says. “People are angry. It’s been really tough. To go places and see someone bite someone’s head off and not care about another, it’s gross.
“We’re all human. I’ve been a jerk sometimes. We need to remember what community means: We all have to help one another. I know it sounds like hippie s---, but slow down and be appreciative of what you have.”