LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 25, 2009— -- When Nigel Haskett stepped in to defend a woman at the Little Rock, Ark., fast-food restaurant where he worked, police called him a hero -- but now that it's time to pay his ongoing medical bills, the restaurant's insurance company has essentially told him to be a hero on his own time.
Haskett was working at a McDonald's restaurant last August when a man walked in and allegedly began assaulting a female customer -- his girlfriend. The incident was caught on the restaurant's surveillance camera.
"He struck her in the face, knocked her down and that's when Nigel came to her rescue," said Lt. Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department.
The 22-year-old, who had been working at the McDonald's restaurant for six months, got involved, pushed the man -- who policed have identified as Perry Kennon -- out the door, and blocked the entrance. That's when Kennon allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Haskett in the chest.
"I didn't feel the impact dead on. I didn't feel it right off," Haskett said. But, he said, "it pierced my aorta, my liver and my pancreas. And I had three surgeries."
Surveillance video shows Haskett stumble back from the impact and collapse inside the McDonald's restaurant. The man who allegedly shot him was arrested.
Haskett spent a more than a month in the hospital, undergoing numerous surgeries and racking up medical bills that he says total more than $300,000.
McDonald's insurance company wrote a letter to Haskett, rejecting his $300,000 in claims and saying that his injuries "did not arise out of, or within the course and scope of his employment."
The decision sparked outrage in the local community, where many feel that Haskett deserves compensation.
"I think it's wrong, I really do," said Sonya Parson, a local resident. "It's wrong -- they should give him his workman's comp. You seeing a woman being attacked, what would you do?"
"He did what he should have done," Little Rock resident Paul Easley told ABC News. "That woman was a customer of McDonalds, and I think he had an obligation as a person and as a McDonald's employee to help."