An African American veteran left his home due to death threats after the story of a Chili's manager taking away his free meal on Veteran's Day went viral.
Ernest Walker, 47, visited a local Chili's in Cedar Hill, Texas, on Veteran's day, which was offering free meals to veterans, the Daily Mail reports.
Walker entered the restaurant in uniform with his service dog Barack, when was approached by an elderly white man who asked him if he was in the 24th infantry following a complaint by another restaurant patron that alleged Walker "wasn't a real soldier," according to the Daily Mail.
In a Facebook post about the incident, Walker writes: "...[The manager] asked for my military ID, I was calm, and provided it to him. I also provided him with my DD214, which is my discharge paperwork. At that point, he should have said, 'I am sorry sir, thank you for your service' ... Instead he followed up with, 'the guest [who complained] also said your dog is not a service dog.'"
At that point, Walker became embarrassed and began filming the interaction with the Chili's manager.
The Facebook post went viral, and Walker's story was shared in several media outlets.
"This overzealous manager comes out, and instead of talking to me man-to-man, he treated me as if I was a black man stealing a meal," Walker told KTVT. "Honestly, that’s what it looked like."
Chili's issued a statement apologizing for the incident and placed the manager on suspension. The restaurant chain said it "fell short" and that "these actions do not reflect the beliefs" of the brand.
But after the story went viral, Walker began receiving threatening phone calls, KXAS reported. Walker's address, contact information and Social Security number were made public, and callers said they looked up information about his children on social media.
Walker reportedly received a suspicious package, death threats and some even threatened to kill his service dog.
The U.S. Army veteran left his home with his wife Debbie on Nov. 13.
"We don’t feel safe in our home," Walker told KXAS. "We’ve been living there for 18 years and now that our address has just bene posted permanently, we are now feeling like we are going to sell our property because we’ll never feel safe there."
Lee Merritt, Walker's attorney, told the Star-Telegram that most of the threats appear to be from "ex-military who have chosen to believe that Mr. Walker has stolen valor," according to the Daily Mail.
"There are people out there who have hatred and there is nothing you can do to change it, it’s a poison in their system," Walker added.
The response to Walker's story wasn't entirely negative.
A GoFundMe page has been created to pay for the meal that was taken away from Walker. The page ended up raising more than $6,000 of its $100 goal in 10 days. Walker reportedly will use the money to feed veterans on Dec.14, his birthday.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also gave Walker and other veterans free tickets to a game.