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Brian Williams accepted a job as a security guard for the Five Guys restaurant at the northeast corner of North Shepherd Drive and Loop 610.

Two years after the off-duty constable’s deputy was shot in the arm during a robbery at the hamburger chain, he is suing the franchisee and the parent corporation – as well as the property owner, property management company and real estate developer – for allegedly creating a dangerous environment that led to the crime and his injury.

Williams, a 41-year-old Tomball resident who according to his attorney continues to work as a deputy for the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable’s Office, filed his civil lawsuit Oct. 15 in Harris County District Court and is seeking more than $1 million in damages. Attorney William G. Hagans of Houston law firm Hagans Montgomery Hagan said his client was shot in the right forearm on the night of Oct. 16, 2019, while in the dimly lit parking lot outside Five Guys, 2902 N. Shepherd Dr.

Hagans said Williams does not plan to sue Keith Lamar Thomas, 27, who pleaded guilty to the robbery and shooting in March and was sentenced to nine years in federal prison, according to a report by Houston television station ABC13.

“There’s the act itself that happened. Then there’s the entire failure by corporations is what this is about,” Hagans said. “This is where corporations knew how to avoid it, knew what they needed to do and made decisions that put everybody in jeopardy.”

The lawsuit names six defendants – Five Guys Enterprises, LLC; Five Guys Operations, LLC; BK Shepherd Ltd.; BK Fairmont Ltd.; Raetta Building and Development Corporation; and Baker Katz Management, LLC. The latter four companies are based in Houston, and BK Shepherd Ltd. is the property owner, according to the Harris County Appraisal District website.

The Five Guys corporate office did not respond to a Tuesday voicemail and email seeking comment. Kenneth Katz and M. Marvin Katz, who the lawsuit cites as the registered agents for the four Houston-based companies, did not respond to voicemails seeking comment that were left at their offices Tuesday.

Hagans said the crux of Williams’ complaint is the lighting at the property when it is dark, during which time Five Guys stays open and the other businesses in the strip center are typically closed. The lawsuit states that minimal lighting in the parking lot causes the light inside the restaurant to serve as a “beacon to all: both inviting to a criminal element and totally blinding to what is outside the door to anyone inside.”

Williams complained about the setup to the business owners and property managers in advance of the robbery and shooting, according to the lawsuit, which says Williams asked to be stationed outside in the parking lot instead of inside the dining room so he could have a better view of the entire property.

On the night of the crime, the lawsuit says Thomas walked past Williams’ vehicle before entering the restaurant at approximately 8:30 p.m., but Williams did not notice Thomas was wearing a ski mask until he was inside the building and began brandishing a gun. When Williams saw a robbery in progress and got out of his vehicle and walked toward the restaurant, he was shot by Thomas as he was exiting the building, the lawsuit states.

“The problem with businesses like this is where they create an environment that invites this sort of incident. That is our concern for people like Deputy Williams as well as the general public,” Hagans said. “It’s very easy, and all the statistics say, ‘Put up lights in the parking lot and you drive crime away.’ If the only thing lit up is the business, all it does is invite crime in.”

Hagans said Williams has not worked any more off-duty security jobs but has continued to serve with the constable’s office, although he must rely on a partner in the event of a physical altercation, according to the attorney. The deputy passed a gun-shooting test after the incident, Hagans said.

Williams, who is right-handed, underwent surgery and rehabilitation after he was shot and missed “a few months” of work with the constable’s office, according to Hagans.

“He got plates in his arm, went through extensive therapy afterward, had to relearn how to write, how to shoot, how to do anything with his arm and his hand,” Hagans said of Williams. “It’s never going to be back to 100 percent.

“It was a terrible and entirely avoidable injury that could have resulted in a whole lot worse had Deputy Williams not been there,” he added. “… If companies like this, whether a management company or Five Guys, don’t think about their customers and the public, we can’t rely on somebody like Deputy Williams to be there to take the bullet always.”

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