A Kansas police officer "fabricated" a story that a McDonald's employee wrote an expletive on his coffee cup over the weekend, Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday said Monday. Hornaday said the officer, who no longer works for the department, had originally claimed he had been given a coffee cup on Saturday that had "f***ing pig" written on it.
"We found that McDonald's and its employees did not have anything whatsoever to do with this incident. This was completely and solely fabricated by a Herington police officer who is no longer employed with our agency," Hornaday said at a press conference.
The officer, who has not been identified, was with the Herington Police Department for only two months, Hornaday said.
Hornaday added that his investigation concluded the accusation "was meant to be a joke," and said the officer "should have come forward immediately ... prior to this becoming a nationwide incident."
"This is absolutely a black eye on law enforcement," Hornaday said. "I hope [the former officer] understands the magnitude of the black eye that this gives the law enforcement profession from coast to coast. None of us can be excluded from that."
Dana Cook, the owner of a McDonald's in Junction City, said in a written statement after the allegation was made that the store had video showing it couldn't have been an employee. Cook did not speculate at the time about who may have written the words.
"My McDonald's have the utmost respect for all members of law enforcement and the military and were troubled by the accusation made," Cook wrote in the statement. "We thoroughly reviewed our security video from every angle, which clearly shows the words were not written by one of our employees. We look forward to working with Chief Hornaday as he continues his investigation."
The alleged incident gained attention after Hornaday said in a Facebook post, which has since been removed, that one of his officers was handed the cup Saturday at a McDonald's drive through in Junction City.
Hornaday posted a picture of the cup and wrote that the officer was offered a "free lunch" but, "A Big Mac and large fries doesn't make up for it.
"This behavior has been, is and always will be wrong," Hornaday said in the post.
"There is a whole lot more to the story than what is being portrayed online. Hopefully, McDonald's will follow through with showing me the video that didn't exist when I met with them Saturday night," Hornaday initially told CBS affiliate WIBW, adding, "It doesn't appear this matter is going to be resolved anytime soon."
After Monday's discovery, Hornaday said he would be more careful with how he uses social media in the future.
"I sincerely hope it doesn't ever happen again, but I assure you that I assure you that I will often question my decision about posting anything on social media because of the impact that it could have, mostly because everything we do, everything we say in the public eye is always brought into question," he said.
Capt. David Gilbert of the sheriff's office in Geary County, where Junction City is located, said in an email Monday prior to the announcement the incident had been fabricated that it is "saddening to see this incident in our community no matter who wrote on the officer's cup." The statement, which also was posted to Facebook, added that "WE will stand together as a community while the incident investigation is completed."
Other restaurant chains have also attracted scrutiny over claims that police officers were mistreated. Earlier this month, Starbucks apologized after two police officers in Riverside, California, were allegedly refused service at one of its cafes. In November, Starbucks also apologized after a server in Glenpool, Oklahoma, allegedly wrote "PIG" on a police officer's cups.