BILLINGS — It’s been just over one month since a recently fired employee came back into Jake’s Downtown restaurant, grabbed two knives and stabbed multiple employees before eventually being subdued and arrested.
Emotionally, it was a difficult time in the days afterward for much of the staff, but as they prepare for another fundraiser in their honor the restaurant continues to thank the generosity of the Billings community.
"The first day afterwards, I had to charge my phone three or four times from people reaching out," said Jake's General Manager Travis Sauvain.
Sauvain was happy to tell all of them he was okay after 21-year-old Brandon Bird came after him inside the restaurant on Nov. 3 by Sauvain’s design.
"I had him start chasing after me, and then we ran out the back door into the alleyway," Sauvain said. "Some of the cooks and the dishwasher came out to help me, and he ran after them back inside. It was when we tackled him into the dish pit that he ended up (injuring) four of the guys."
Sauvain thanks an undercover cop who happened to be across the street and rushed in to help before a number of on-duty officers got there. The whole incident was over within 30 seconds. It’s forced the restaurant to make some changes.
"Our back door stays locked all the time now, even though he came through the front door," Sauvain said. "That's the thing about it - it's one of those circumstances where there's nothing you could really do in a situation like that. You just hope they don't happen."
"It could have happened at any business, to any one of us," said Mandy Easton, a manager at the nearby Montana Brewing Company and Hooligan's restaurants. "It's totally random."
Easton has worked a block away from Jake’s for a decade. She thinks of Sauvain and a number of his staff as family.
"All I wanted to do was bear hug each and every one of them," Easton said of her reaction upon hearing of the attack. "And just say, 'We’re with you. We’ve got your back.'"
It’s a feeling unique in many ways to the several square blocks that most call downtown.
"I’m pretty sure that day, (manager) Brikotah (Styles) threw the idea out, 'How can we help them?,'" Easton said. "Why don't we have a Community Monday and they can throw themselves a rad Christmas Party? Get them back to a happy place."
Hooligan’s has been donating 20 percent of their sales on Mondays between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to various causes for years. They expect this Monday to be one of their biggest.
"I moved away for a couple years, but I moved back because I love Billings," Sauvain said. "It’s that small-town feel where literally everybody reaches out.”
Especially in the darkest times.