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Arapahoe County investigators: No proof that Taco Bell employees put rat poison in customer's taco

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Posted at 11:22 AM, Jan 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 12:53:53-05

Editor's note on March 8, 2023: The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office has closed this case and investigators have cleared Taco Bell employees of any wrongdoing after reviewing surveillance footage from inside the restaurant. No suspect was found.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Arapahoe County investigators say they found no evidence that employees at a Taco Bell put rat poison in a customer's taco, as he claimed during a hospital visit in which lab tests found the rodenticide in the food.

The incident began around 1 p.m. on Jan. 15, when deputies with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office responded to the Taco Bell at 16700 E. Smoky Hill Road in Centennial for a report of a disturbance.

Deputies learned that a customer in the drive-thru and employees had argued about an order. The customer had ordered soft tacos and a soda and when he reached the pickup window, he was told their soda dispenser was not working. The customer became angry and requested a burrito to replace the soda, and employees told him that was not allowed. The man continued arguing with the staff until they gave him a burrito, according to the sheriff's office.

Deputies at the scene determined that the incident did not involve any criminal activity.

At 7:50 p.m. that same day, deputies responded to a local hospital after receiving a report that they were treating a man who told hospital staff he ate food that had rat poison in it, according to the sheriff's office.

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At the hospital, the patient told deputies that he had gone to the Taco Bell that afternoon — he was the same customer from the earlier incident — and started to eat the tacos he had ordered sometime after 7 p.m. After a bite, he said he felt a burning in his mouth and started to vomit. He called 911 and was transported to the hospital.

Deputies saw the taco he had bitten and noticed "a greenish-gray substance," which lab tests confirmed was rat poison, according to the sheriff's office.

The man told deputies they could enter his home and retrieve the rest of the food as evidence.

The Taco Bell closed and investigators began to process the scene. The Arapahoe County Health Department was also alerted to the issue.

The sheriff's office said the Taco Bell was very helpful during the investigation and turned over all videos from inside the building to the investigators.

Since the incident, authorities scoured through those videos and found no evidence that the employees had put rat poison in the customer's food.

Investigators have attempted to contact the customer by phone and by visiting his home, but have not been able to talk with him.

"Although there is no evidence that the employees at Taco Bell put the rat poison in the food, investigators cannot account for how it got in the food," the sheriff's office press release reads. "If the customer has any information that can help with the investigation into how the poison could have gotten into the food, we request he contact the sheriff's office."

The customer has not been identified.

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