An Arizona couple is worried that a man can walk away without facing serious consequences after pulling a weapon on them during a February business meeting.
The Whatchacookin food truck, operated by Brittany Myers and Solomon Odubajo, is a Black-owned company that serves customers in Mesa, Arizona. On February 5, the couple arrived at Chef’s Shared Kitchen, where they’d been renting commercial kitchen space, for a meeting with Tom Toot.
Myers told The Root, “He had sent us a 30-day termination letter, and he wanted us to leave the kitchen.” As a result, “we wanted to discuss why he wanted us to leave.”
Unfortunately, Myers’ lack of familiarity with “Peak Whiteness” prevented her from recognizing the warning signs that a person is about to go “full white.” Odubajo, her boyfriend, informed her that he would be late due to a previously scheduled appointment. According to Myers, when Toot became combative just minutes into the meeting, she was taken aback by the caucasity.
“He was very enraged and very angry and upset,” Myers said. “I just couldn’t understand, like…Why was he so angry? He had on an All Lives Matter shirt, started yelling at me, and told me that I was racist started telling me how our business was and, um, that he should sue us, but he wouldn’t get much and how he just didn’t want us at the kitchen. I told him he was being very unprofessional; that he was making me feel uncomfortable. So I told him, ‘let’s go outside and have the meeting’ because I was in that corner.”
According to video surveillance footage obtained by The Root, Toot motioned wildly before holding up a shirt that read “Black White Gay Straight All Lives Matter.”
Fortunately for Myers, Odubajo arrived, interrupting Toot’s actions. Odubajo explained to The Root, “When I walked in the door and saw Tom, I tried to lighten the mood a little bit,” He said, “I’m like: ‘Hey bud, what’s up,’ to lighten things up.”
Odubajo sat with his wife to finish the conversation after Myers told her husband that Toot seemed upset. Despite the lack of sound in the surveillance video, it shows a calm conversation between the couple and a slightly animated Toot.
“My wife starts telling me what [Toot] said,” Odubajo explained. “So and he interrupts and says: ‘Basically we don’t want to do business with you guys.’ I told him it didn’t make any sense and that he was coming off as rude and disrespectful. That’s when he took a deep breath and drew his pistol.”
Odubajo jumped out of his seat and snatched Toot’s wrist. Myers helped her husband restrain Toot when she realized what was going on before calling the cops. Odubajo holding on to Toot’s gun hand while waiting for law enforcement to arrive so he couldn’t fire the gun at them.
Meanwhile, Myers was concerned that her husband would be shot and killed by the officers rather than by the gunman.
“I didn’t really want to call the police because I was scared,” Myers said. “I thought they might kill my husband if I call the police because he’s a Black man pinning down a white and it don’t look right. So I’m just like, do I call? Do I not call? What do I do? We didn’t know what to do, honestly.” She added, “Once I did call the police, the first thing I said was: ‘Somebody’s trying to kill us! At the same time, I’m like, ‘please don’t kill my husband when you come to handle this situation.”
Investigators observed video surveillance of the incident and found it to be consistent with Myers’ and Odubajo’s claims. Toot also confessed to “attempting to withdraw his firearm from his waistband as a scare tactic due to [Odubajo] being bigger than him,” according to the arrest documents obtained.
The couple has received letters from the owners of the Chef’s Shared Kitchen requesting that they delete posts about the incident and urging them not to speak to the media after the incident, a sentiment they say was reiterated by police and the Maricopa County attorney. And, although the incident occurred almost two months ago, the couple were concerned that Toot will only be given a minor reprimand for his conduct. The kitchen gangster was originally charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of disorderly conduct. But, as Myers and Odubajo point out, that could alter before Toot goes before a court.
“The prosecutor told me that, most likely, [Toot] is not going to do any jail time,” Myers said. “They are offering to reduce the charges to only one count of assault, which is crazy because this happened to two people.”
Maybe it would be considered three people because Myers had a miscarriage shortly after the incident.
“[The county attorney] kept saying, ‘You don’t know what he was going to do. You don’t know that he was going to shoot you,’” added Odubajo. “But I know he was trying to pull the trigger. If it hadn’t got caught in his shirt, we’d be some goners, man. Yet, they keep telling me that it’s not a hate crime.”
In the meantime, the couple is also dealing with the effects of the incident. Apart from the fear of losing his business, Odubajo often wakes up in the middle of the night pleading, “Please don’t shoot me.”