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'Open the till': Teen BK employees stabbed in unprovoked attack

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Sun, 16 Jun 2024, 1:46pm

'Open the till': Teen BK employees stabbed in unprovoked attack

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Sun, 16 Jun 2024, 1:46pm

Ethan Simon’s bloody knife attack in a South Auckland Burger King at first seemed random, if not completely unhinged.

His first victim – a 16-year-old employee unlucky enough to be working in the public area of the Takanini restaurant that Sunday afternoon – received no warning that anything was amiss as Simon entered the restaurant. No words were exchanged.

Simon, 27, simply walked up to the youth and started stabbing him, pushing him backwards then continuing to stab after he fell to the floor.

But moments later, as he turned his aggression on other employees, a possible motive would reveal itself.

“Open the till!” he yelled. “Give me the money.”

Details of the April 2023 attack – which resulted in two hospitalised employees – have emerged for the first time in court documents provided to the Herald ahead of Simon’s sentencing, scheduled for next month in Manukau District Court.

But the documents do not explain why an apparent robbery attempt began with no demands – just a sudden, unprovoked and potentially deadly attack.

More light may be shed on the issue at his sentencing hearing, at which time pre-sentence and psychological reports can be considered by the judge.

Simon was initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm to the 16-year-old and assaulting a 17-year-old employee with a knife with intent to rob him. Both charges are punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

He pleaded guilty to the wounding of the 16-year-old but the robbery charge involving the older teen was replaced with a guilty plea to injuring with intent to injure, which carries a maximum possible sentence of five years.

The agreed summary of facts for the case indicates that Simon was at the time living about 500 metres from the restaurant.

As the 16-year-old yelled out and moaned in pain, other employees who were already behind the counter and in the kitchen area were alerted to the commotion. Not too long later, Simon walked away from the teen and headed towards the door before backtracking and deciding to jump the counter.

“Open the till!” he demanded of the 17-year-old after approaching him and several other employees, including the manager on duty.

“The defendant then lunged forward at [the 17-year-old] and stabbed him on his chest,” court documents state. “[The teen employee] went down to the floor in pain. The other employees fled through the rear exit.”

Simon then pointed the knife at the manager.

“I want the money. Give me the money or I’m going to stab him,” he demanded of her, referring to the already bleeding 17-year-old.

He repeated the threat, appearing “very angry and serious”, when the manager didn’t immediately respond.

The manager went to the till and entered the wrong codes to distract Simon as the 17-year-old fled through the back exit, authorities said.

“If you stab me you get nothing,” the manager told him.

“I know the codes and nobody else does.”

The defendant left the restaurant and went directly home after rifling through the drawers. He was arrested a short time later after a bystander followed him to the home and called police.

The 16-year-old who had been attacked first suffered severe blood loss and required emergency surgery. Surgeons had to remove his spleen, drain blood from a collapsed lung and repair his cut diaphragm.

After fleeing out the back of the restaurant, the 17-year-old was rushed to Clendon Medical Centre by two bystanders whose Mazda hatchback was in the carpark. From there, he was taken to Middlemore Hospital by ambulance and treated for a single stab wound to his abdomen.

The restaurant, which was damaged in a major fire just three months after the knife attacks, is now permanently closed.

A Burger King NZ spokesperson said in the immediate aftermath of the incident that the company was shocked and horrified and security was being increased.

“We are focused on supporting them and their families through this truly awful incident,” the spokesperson said.

Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor Daniel Newman described the incident in an interview with Newstalk ZB as a “damn disgrace” and “a new low”.

“It’s just beyond comprehension that something like this could take place,” he said.

“Retail workers don’t go to work and then get stabbed by customers.”

Detective Inspector Tofilau Fa’amanuia Va’aelua, of Counties Manukau CIB, expressed similar sentiments at the time. He acknowledged how alarming and concerning it would be to the public.

“These two people were simply doing their jobs and could not have anticipated coming to work today and becoming victims in an incident like this,” he said.

“We hope it is reassuring that we have made a quick arrest and will put this person before the courts to be held accountable.”

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.

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