After competing in their church bowling league one night early last year, Charlie Jones and some of his friends stopped for a soda at a Wendy's in Inglewood.
The group had been talking for a time in the fast-food restaurant's parking lot when a screaming teen-ager approached them, police said. The young man shot Jones in the neck, stomach and right forearm before running off.
No motive for the attack was ever determined and the assailant has never been found, but last week Jones filed a lawsuit blaming Wendy's for the assault.
The lawsuit, filed in Torrance Superior Court exactly one year after the shooting, alleges that the restaurant, at Century and Crenshaw boulevards, failed to protect customers in a neighborhood that it knew was plagued by violent crime.
'Owe It to Public'
"We are not asking for them to have their own police force," said Howard Hall, Jones' attorney, "but they owe it to the public--if they are coming in to spend their money--that these places be safe."
One of the restaurant's owners disagrees, as does the police investigator on the case. They say there was no way Wendy's could have anticipated or prevented the shooting.
Jones, then 20, was hospitalized for a month. And, although he has returned to his job in an auto parts store, the Culver City man still bears emotional scars from the attack, Hall said.
The lawsuit charges that Wendy's failed to provide adequate security although other people had been attacked at the restaurant. Wendy's and its employees "acted with conscious disregard for the safety of others," the suit alleges.
But Inglewood Detective Russ Enyeart said the business could not have prevented the incident. "It's ludicrous to say that just because a shooting goes down at the parking lot of a business that the business is liable," Enyeart said.
He said fierce gang violence in the neighborhood around Crenshaw and Century has hurt businesses as well as individuals. There have been four more shootings near the intersection since Jones was shot on Jan. 12, 1987, Enyeart said.
Two teen-agers were arrested this week as suspects in the other shootings, Enyeart said, and Jones will be asked whether he can identify one of the two as the youth who attacked him.
Charles Williams, a principal in the Wendy's franchise, said: "It's really frustrating to all the businesses in the area when the gang activity gets like that. I don't know what you can do to protect yourself against something like this."
Williams said the restaurant was closed except for a drive-through window when the attack occurred about 11 p.m.
Williams denied the lawsuit's contention that there had been "several attacks" on the Wendy's property prior to the Jones shooting. "Up to that point," he said, "we hadn't had any problem with anybody attacked or anybody being harassed or anything like that."