Sulia Luy, 27, a native of Cambodia, has only been in the country for 10 months, Fresh Donuts Inc. owner Donald Eap said at his store in West Philadelphia yesterday. He brought Luy, his wife's cousin, from York to work with him part time so he could teach her how to run a business of her own.

 

But she received a horrifying lesson in customer service a week ago when an angry customer hurled a cup of scalding coffee on her after an argument over payment for a $2.40 food order. Luy, who does not speak English, gingerly peeled back bandages to reveal a large raw patch where the skin was sloughed off her arm due to second-degree burns sustained while shielding her face from the blistering liquid. She was trying to soothe the wound with an aloe leaf wrapped in bandages.

 

After police released surveillance video of the incident last Thursday, phone lines were flooded with tips identifying the alleged suspect as David Timbers, 52, who lives in an apartment on the 3700 block of Haverford Avenue a few blocks away from the store. Timbers turned himself in Monday evening and was released yesterday after posting 10 percent of $25,000 bail.

 

"He was a regular customer and he never acted like that," Eap said. He said that he tried to intervene, but was outnumbered by Timbers, a man who accompanied him and at least one other patron who joined the argument. "I tell them 'stop,' but they not gonna respect me," he said.

 

"We've been here over 20 years and nothing like this ever happened," Eap continued. "From 1991 to now, it never happened. They are good people around here, there is never any trouble. Then last week – I don't know what happened."

 

He said that Luy is still scared. "She still come in every morning. She still training because next year, she want to open her own store," he said. "But she still worried about it, she still not happy. She don't want to make trouble, though."

'Just a cup of coffee'



Neighbors reactions to the shocking incident, which has made national headlines, were mixed. "I don't care what she did, she didn't deserve to get hot coffee thrown on her," said C. Burton, who, like Timbers, is a routine Fresh Donuts patron. He said that, while he was familiar with Timbers from the neighborhood, the man mostly kept to himself. "He's a little unstable upstairs."

Timbers didn't answer the door at his apartment, but neighbors said he lived with his wife and two children. "He's doesn't mess with anybody like that – he probably snapped. It was just a cup of coffee," said Harry K. Moore. "He's not a bad guy."

A man who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mark, said he became involved in the altercation while waiting for his own breakfast. "[Timbers] took out a $10 bill and gave it to her and she gave him $7.40 back. When his sandwich was done, he was outside talking and I told him it was finished. She kept telling him he didn't pay, but I saw him. I was standing right there."

He said that, after Timbers allegedly threw the coffee, Eap tried to block him and his companion from leaving by standing in front of the Cadillac they were driving, which neighbors said has since been impounded by police. "He was talking crazy and told the guy not to move the car. Then he argued with me because I said the man did pay," Mark said.

"That was wrong," he said of the coffee-tossing, "But they have a tendency of coming off real smart at the mouth and they pissed him off – he flipped. ... The only thing he was wrong about was throwing coffee on her. Other than that, he was not wrong at all."