Laura Walter, Senior Editor EHS Today

Laura Walter, Senior Editor

In 2007, I lived just down the street from a McDonald’s in Lakewood, Ohio. On July 7 that year, I heard sirens in the neighborhood but didn’t think much of it. When I passed McDonald’s later that day, I was surprised to see the store was closed. The building exterior was crossed with police tape, and one of the front windows was broken. I speculated that the store had been subjected to vandalism or a similar crime.

As it turns out, reality was much, much worse. That morning, a young man named Nathaniel Williams Jr. entered the store and fatally shot 26-year-old Robert “Shawn” Joslin, a McDonald’s employee, in the head. Williams then fled to a nearby railroad trestle, where he surrendered to police after a brief standoff.

Workplace violence wasn’t at the front of my mind in the initial hours and days I learned the tragic news. Instead, I watched somberly as the broken window was boarded up, as the store reopened and customers returned, as shrines sprouted near the location of Joslin’s murder and, finally, as the window was replaced. 

Shortly thereafter, when I began working at EHS Today (then Occupational Hazards), I came across an interactive workplace fatality map. I accessed the map and clicked on my own city to see what work-related fatalities had hit closest to home – and the first fatality that popped up was this McDonald’s homicide.

Joslin was a McDonald’s employee, and he was murdered inside his place of employment. But his murder also is a grisly result of domestic violence. 

According to media reports, Williams, who had a history of domestic violence, was distraught that his estranged wife and their daughter were staying with Joslin. As Williams grew increasingly upset about his wife’s new relationship, he began harassing Joslin, even at work. This all culminated on the morning of July 7, when he followed Joslin into the McDonald’s lobby and shot him in the head.

I thought about this incident when I attended a recent workplace violence seminar in Cleveland. It turns out that work and home aren’t always as separate as we like to imagine – especially when a violent abuser seeks the victim out for a confrontation. 

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EHS Today