February 14, 2019
In a now-viral video posted to Facebook, a man releases a large, white rat into a crowded McDonald's in Newark, New Jersey, and sends customers screaming through the restaurant.
The video, which appears to be a planned prank, shows a young man and a child walking into the fast-food restaurant at 772 Broad St. on Feb. 5 with the rat in a plastic, see-through container. After he releases the critter, you can hear people screaming, the young man runs, and the rat scurries under a table.
The video begins with the man from outside the McDonald's and follows him into the dining room, so you can see onlookers starting to realize this person is actually going to release a rat in a busy restaurant. They don't look pleased.
If this scenario sounds familiar, that's because locally there was an instance of rodents being released in restaurants in Upper Darby, Delaware County. But that was a case of pizza shop rivalry gone too far, rather than an attempt at viral Internet fame.
In March 2011 pizza shop owner Nikolas Galiatsatos was arrested after a police investigation found that twice Galiatsatos had entered competing pizzerias with bags of live mice and then set the rodents free.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood called the incidents "terrorism by mice" and the case received national coverage.
Galiatsatos eventually pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and cruelty to animals charges, according to court records. He was sentenced to house arrest and community service.
While there is no viral video of Galiatsatos and his rodents, the incidents did inspire inspire one line in this classic cameo by Upper Darby's Tina Fey on SNL's "Weekend Update" in October 2016.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Newark McDonald's is working with police to identify the person in that video.
NJ.com reported that according to a McDonald's spokesperson, shortly after the video ended the rat exited the restaurant through the front door.
“The safety of our customers and the cleanliness of our restaurants are our top priorities," Celest Quintana, the operator of the franchise location, told NJ 101.5.