by Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — Supporters of a then-18-year-old who has been in a coma for more than two years are urging a boycott of a new restaurant opening in Pikeville, Kentucky.
Friends of Dawson Isom, now 20, say the man who caused the coma is listed as owner/general manager of the North Carolina-based Golden Corral franchise. Isom was hospitalized Saturday, May 30, 2015, from injuries sustained in an altercation with Erik Rash. The incident occurred on Second Avenue in Williamson near the Goodwill location.
Videos of the incident, confirmed by Isom family members and witnesses, shows that Rash struck Isom, knocking him to the pavement. In a civil lawsuit filed in the matter, Isom’s lawyer maintains that Rash continued to attack the 18-year-old on the pavement. As a result, the lawsuit filed by former Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Clifford in Mingo circuit court, Isom suffered the life-threatening injuries which include traumatic damage to his head and brain.
When the confrontation occurred, both the Isoms and Rash family members agreed to some facts in the case. For one, Isom was apparently among a group of teenagers that spent the previous night in an apartment owned by Gary Rash, father of Erik. On Saturday morning, there was allegedly a dispute between Gary Rash and some of the teenagers regarding their presence in the apartment.
This is where the stories diverge. Isoms say Dawson and the other boys quickly attempted to leave as Gary Rash demanded they do, but they say Gary Rash blocked them from driving from the apartment building parking lot.
The videos and Isom family appear to confirm that Erik Rash soon arrived at the scene, struck Isom and kicked him on the sidewalk. There is no evidence from the videos that Isom ever confronted either Gary or Erik Rash. Nevertheless, the Rash version of the story seems to revolve around an undocumented attack by Isom on Gary Rash prior to Erik’s arrival at the parking lot area. On video, Gary Rash is seen on the opposite side of the vehicle from Isom when his son arrives at the scene.
Then-Mingo County Prosecutor Teresa Maynard, along with Senior Trooper J.D. Matheney said at the time that the matter was presented to a Mingo County grand jury. The jury, it was announced, indicted Erik Rash for misdemeanor battery. After Maynard explained to the Isom family that Erik Rash would likely receive a sentence of six months probation and a $500 fine in the case, she agreed to have the charges “nollied.” Technically, that meant stronger charges could be levied against Rash if developments merited them.
To date, no additional criminal matters have been considered except that, at the request of Erik Rash’s attorney, Brian Abraham, Judge Miki Thompson expunged the misdemeanor charge from the record. Abraham is now Governor Jim Justice’s chief counsel. The judge also sealed all the files in the case. Subsequently, Clifford filed a motion to reopen the files, which was not opposed by Rash’s insurance-appointed attorney. Thompson agreed to do so recently. However, at press time, she had not entered a formal order to that effect.
Tension has run high between the two families and their supporters since the incident. The planned opening of the Golden Corral has become a recent rallying issue for Isom supporters, with many urging others not to visit the buffet restaurant chain. Company officials had not responded to an inquiry regarding the Pikeville location by press time. But prior newspaper articles in the Williamson Daily News and Mingo Messenger appear to confirm the Rash ownership of the franchise. In fact, a recent Facebook post instructs those interested in working at the restaurant to send information to an email address listed as email@example.com.
A March newspaper story said the restaurant is owned by Neighborhood Hospitality Group of Pikeville. Erik Rash is listed as the owner/general manager with his brother, Derek, named as operations manager.
The social media page called “DawsonStrong Supporters” has urged the boycott as well.
The restaurant recently announced that it will open July 3 on Cassidy Boulevard.