This past Easter Sunday, a friendly dinner turned deadly for two women who were killed in an altercation at Weshet Ethiopian Restaurant in Manhattan. Witnesses say that the women were arguing over who would treat the other for the meal.
The women, who were of Ethiopian descent and also sisters, were spending their Easter Sunday at the restaurant when things took a deadly turn.
Yonas Bekele, 17, the son of one of the women, was sitting at the table when it started. "My mom stole the check out of my aunt's hand and then my aunt got very, very upset," said Bekele.
"They were having a tug-of-war over the bill folder. Literally a tug-of-war. People started looking at us. I was super embarassed. "
According to witnesses at the restaurant, after the initial tug-of-war, the women began yelling at each other and listing the previous occassions when the other had paid for dinner as proof that it was not the other's turn to pay.
Said Mulu Atchberbari, a waitress at Weshet, "One of ze lady, she call me to come. Zen ze ahzer lady, she say no, she gonna pay. I was confusing, just standing in my space. Should I take zis credit card or zat credit card. I was very confusing."
After Bekele's mother finally won control of the check, and started to reach for her wallet, accounts vary. Both women drew guns and demanded the check from the other. Shots rang out; there was pandemonium in the restaurant as people poured out of the front door. Bekele was still in a state of disbelief over the incident, saying that his mother and his aunt were very close. "It's still not real to me...I didn't even know my mom carried a gun."
"I was felt like I was running from Derg again," said Atchberbari, referring to the violent Ethiopian regime of the 1970s and 80s.
Other sources close to the family say that the women, who grew up in Ethiopia, were very close. After moving to America in the 1970s, to escape the Derg regime, the women would often meet at one or another Ethiopian restaurant over the holidays and recall happy memories of their childhood and exchange family gossip.
"I remember when zey were very little girls in Ethiopia, zey would came to me and said, 'Uncle Danny, we is loving each ahzer,' " said one family friend living in Ethiopia, who wished to remain nameless. "Zey would get into trouble at classes sometimes, and zey would say, 'Uncle Danny Woldemariam, our teacher is not liking us sitting together.' Zat kind of thing, it happened before, but not like zis. You know, zey--."
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This is not the first instance of bill-related violence to hit an Ethiopian restaurant. Earlier this year at a restaurant in Queens, an Ethiopian man was stabbed to death with a toothpick after trying to pay for his friend's lunch.
[Update: Believe it or not, this has actually happened. Thirty years ago in Ethiopia, says my friend Betty, two men, one of whom she knew personally, were convicted of killing a man for paying their bill after a night of drinking. The man snuck out at the end of the evening after secretly paying the tab. The two men, who were brothers, their pride offended, hunted down the gracious man and killed him. I give up. Reality has already written all the best fake news stories ever.]