Community support grows for two employees killed outside McDonald's

Community support grows for two employees killed outside McDonald's
Christian Flores | WBTV)
Christian Flores | WBTV)

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - After a shooting at a McDonald's in Hickory Wednesday killed two employees, the restaurant where they worked has seen the community support the two victims' families.

The shooting happened in the parking lot of the McDonald's on Highway 321, killing 22-year-old Richelle Lail  and 28-year-old Cody Williams Watts. This McDonald's, along with all McDonald's in Catawba, Caldwell and Burke counties, are raising money to help their families.

In addition to putting up donation boxes in each restaurant - 15 in total - they are donating $1 from each Big Mac Value Meal sold. The Big Mac fundraiser will continue until Sunday.

"It makes me proud to live in Hickory, and our counties, based on the responses and feedback from all of our restaurants here," said John Link, the owner of the Highway 321 McDonald's.

On Monday alone, the Highway 321 location raised more than $1,000 between the Big Mac fundraiser and the donation box.

"We're selling Big Macs like crazy. It makes me smile. It's an unbelievable feeling," said Sabrina Ledford, who worked with and was close friends with Lail.

Watts worked at the same McDonald's location for 13 years. Lail worked for the last three years. They became more than just co-workers for much of the staff.

"It's difficult, but my main priority is doing everything for her family and Cody's family," Ledford said.

"He grew up with my son in the restaurant," Link said.

The alleged shooter, 22-year-old Eric Yount, sits in jail now, charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. After Watts died Friday, the attempted murder charge is expected to be upgraded.

The day after the shooting, the restaurant closed, and provided grief counselors for employees. The restaurant again closed Sunday, for Richelle's funeral, and will close one more time Wednesday afternoon for Cody's funeral.

While many who work at McDonald's are still struggling to cope with their loss, Link said the community's support has made it a little easier to begin the coping process.

"Our employees and staff, and I think the community wanted to do something to make a difference," Link said.

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