Last Thursday, Timo Rosenthal, a police officer in New Mexico, went to Burger King during his lunch break, ordered a burger for himself, and then parked his car so he could enjoy his on-the-job fast food. But when he pulled the burger out of that still-steaming paper sack, he saw that someone had drawn a cartoon pig on the wrapper, complete with bulbous eyes and a small black badge.
When Rosenthal unwrapped his meal, he was shocked to discover that the burger looked burned too. Because this is 2019, he posted a picture of the pig on Facebook, with the caption "When you order food in uniform." Now Rosenthal is also shocked that the photo went viral, leading to an appearance on FOX News, an over-the-top apology from Burger King, and the prompt firing of five Burger King workers.
We'll have to take Rosenthal's word that the burger was, in his words, "of very poor quality," but the well-beyond-Flame-Grilled patties were, he says, what turned a sort of harmless prank into a vindictive act of disrespect for law enforcement. "My first reaction was I thought it was comical. I had a rookie with me and we left the drive-thru, set up at a spot where we would eat, and I pulled out the burger," Rosenthal said on Fox & Friends on Monday morning.
"I saw the pig and I was like 'Wow, this is kind of funny.' I have a good sense of humor. But once I opened up the burger and saw the burned patties and the poor quality of the burger, I knew it wasn't a joke and it was out of spite." (Burned patties and poor quality? Umm, have you been to Burger King before, Officer?)
Rosenthal didn't return to the Burger King—and says he doesn't plan to—but his Facebook post was shared more than 1,000 times, which got the attention of the owners of the Clovis, New Mexico restaurant. "I just wanted to share it with my family and friends. I had no idea it was gonna go this viral," he said. "I don't blame Burger King at all. It's not Burger King's fault. It's the fault of a few people that worked there and they took swift action and got them fired." According to KRQE, the five employees that were allegedly responsible for the cartoon pig and the extra-grilled patties had all been fired by the next day.
“What occurred is unacceptable and not in line with our brand values," a Burger King spokesperson said in a statement. "When made aware of the incident, the restaurant owner immediately reached out to the officer-involved to apologize and terminated the team members involved." On top of that, the Burger King involved is offering free meals to police officers, and is sending a catered lunch to the Clovis Police Department, "as a gesture of goodwill."
Rosenthal was pleased with the response. "Everybody needs to be held accountable for their own actions," he said. "And that's what they did. They're holding the people accountable." And, for what it's worth, a handful of angry keyboard avengers are currently letting the Clovis Burger King have it, leaving one-star Facebook reviews that mostly say things like "NEVER WILL I VISIT YOUR ESTABLISHMENT" and "Completely unacceptable!"
Rosenthal said that this was the first time that his food has been tampered with, despite the fact that he's both a cop and an immigrant. ("I came here legally," he added, during his Fox & Friends interview). "I love this country and I think one of the things that makes our country great is our wonderful Constitution. Everybody has their First Amendment rights and their freedom of speech and if people want to express the hate, or the resentment that they have for law enforcement, they can certainly do that," he said. " But if they follow it up with actions, and then I don't get to enjoy my lunch [...] that's not OK."
That said, though, the little badge on the pig was a nice touch.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.