David Runk, Associated Press
A sign on the door of a Burger King restaurant in Detroit, Mich., is shown on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. Police said a 20-year-old restaurant employee punched a 67-year-old customer during a dispute at the restaurant on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, and the customer fell and later died.
DETROIT — A 20-year-old Burger King employee who was arguing with a customer in a crowded fast food restaurant punched the 67-year-old man, who fell and later died, police said Friday.
The punch may have caused the older man to choke on his dentures, WJBK-TV reported.
Police said the customer was reportedly causing a disturbance Thursday afternoon at the restaurant on the city's east side and tried to hit the worker, who swung back.
"A verbal argument occurred," police Sgt. Eren Stephens told The Associated Press. "It escalated into a physical altercation."
Jerome Perdu, 59, of Detroit, works as a security guard nearby and said he was at the restaurant at the time. He said he didn't see the customer get hit, but watched as paramedics tried to revive him. The restaurant was crowded at the time, he said.
"I just seen him lying on the floor," Perdu said. "EMS was pumping him."
The man was taken to a hospital, where he later died. An autopsy expected to be conducted Friday was to determine the cause of death.
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The employee was being held Friday and could face criminal charges. Stephens said that once the investigation is complete, the details will be submitted to the Wayne County prosecutor's office for review.
Around midday Friday, a sign on the restaurant's door indicated that only the drive-thru was open, and a steady stream of customers pulled into the parking lot. A manager who opened the locked door said any comment would come from the fast food company.
Denise Wilson, a spokeswoman for Miami-based Burger King, said Friday that company officials were aware of the incident and the franchise owner was cooperating with police.
Associated Press writer David Aguilar contributed to this report.