FAIL: Snopes Claims Cop Booted From Outback Wasn't A Police Officer

A Snopes columnist incorrectly labeled information in a story as false after a cop was refused service for being armed.

Cleveland, TN - After a uniformed Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officer was kicked out of Outback Steakhouse on Friday night, the company had apologized and the officer accepted the apology. But a Snopes columnist's failed "fact check" on the situation brought new attention to the incident and uncovered shocking statements.

TWRA Officer Andrew Ward posted about the incident on social media, and called the situation “a first.”

“While I was at work tonight (in uniform) I stopped by Outback Steakhouse to eat supper with my wife,” he wrote in the post. “I was approached by the manager and asked if I would put my gun in my truck. I let her know that I couldn’t because I was in uniform.”

Officer Ward said that the manager left for a moment to go make a phone call, but then soon returned to his table.

“We were asked to leave because Outback is a gun free zone,” Officer Ward wrote.

The company later apologized and Officer Ward accepted the apology, along with a $100 gift card.

Then Snopes columnist Kim LaCapria did a "fact check" on the story in which she claimed it contained mixture of true and false statement.

Under the "what's false" section, LaCapria wrote that, "The customer asked to leave was a wildlife officer, rather than a police officer."

Except, wildlife officers are police officers.

UPDATE: After this article was written, Snopes edited their "fact check" to say, "The customer asked to leave was a wildlife officer, rather than a state or local police officer." It appears that they missed the fact that the word "\*Tennessee" in "Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency" is indicative of them being a state police agency.*

LaCapria also claimed that "an individual commenting on behalf of Outback Steakhouse" denied that Outback was a gun-free zone.

She failed to cite any other source besides this unnamed "individual." And it's not clear why the "gun free zone" is a disputed part of the story, because Officer Watts only said that he was told it was a "gun free zone."

With Snopes at least one out of two for incorrect facts, Blue Lives Matter decided to fact check Snopes' claim that Outback wasn't a gun-free zone.

Sandy Malone with Blue Lives Matter spoke with the restaurant's corporate office to nail down if guns were permitted in Outback Steakhouse.

“We do not permit guns in our restaurants because we often have families dining with us, and we have a bar. Law enforcement is the exception for obvious reasons,” said Elizabeth Watts, director of media and community relations for Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., parent company of Outback Steakhouse.

“All [Outback Steakhouses] are supposed to be gun-free zones – that’s our company policy,” Watts continued. “Generally speaking, we do not wish for people to have guns … we just want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable.”

Then when Watts was asked about the specific incident with the police officer that occurred at their Cleveland, Tennessee location, she apologized, saying “We made a mistake and it shouldn’t have happened."

Then Watts continued, “You do know it was a wildlife officer, right? Because you said police officer. And it was a wildlife officer.”

Blue Lives Matter asked her to clarify what she meant, and if that meant they didn’t consider the wildlife officer a law enforcement authority.

“I think when people say police officers – obviously there’s federal, local – there’s all different kinds of police officers,” Watts replied, clearly uncomfortable with the question.

“It’s not any different – we made a mistake, it shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened at all,” she finished.

Blue Lives Matter contacted TWRA Communications Manager Doug Markham who asserted that their officers are not only police officers, but that they are some of the most trained officers in the state.

“Our officers are very much commissioned police officers," Markham said. He added that they had college degrees and had to undergo extensive specialty training as well as full training in firearms and defensive tactics.

Because TWRA officers are fully-commissioned police officers, they are not only capable of enforcing all state laws, but they can respond to back-up any other law enforcement agency.

Not only that, but the job of wildlife officers is especially dangerous, because just about every person they arrest is armed and they work far away from backup officers.

While people may claim that their official title isn't "police officer" that's not the case for deputy sheriffs, state troopers, or other law enforcement positions. (Note: Even as a municipal police officer, my title was "Patrolman" not "police officer.")

Blue Lives Matter spoke to a wildlife officer who said that it's aggravating to constantly deal with people who don't think that they are police officers.

The wildlife officer cited a time that he stopped a drunk driver and the driver almost took off because he refused to recognize the wildlife officer's authority to conduct traffic stops. That suspect learned the hard way that wildlife officers have full authority to enforce the law.

We have been unable to reach Officer Watts for a comment, but prior to the latest developments, he said that he accepted the company's apology.

“The amount of support our community has shown us is truly humbling,” Officer Ward said in a final post on the matter. “Outback has called and apologized to me and my family and we have truly accepted this apology. There was a mistake made and that’s it... we all make mistakes...and must move forward with our lives.”

"I have spoken with the manger involved, the regional manager and the Vice President of operations for Outback today,” the officer told WTVC in a text message.

“They have apologized profusely and I have accepted their apology and the issue in my opinion has been concluded,” he said.

Do you trust Snopes as a fact checking authority? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.

Comments (28)
No. 1-28
Aaron57
Aaron57

Regardless of whether he's legally considered a "police" officer, he's a law enforcement officer. So even though it is correct to say he's not "police," it doesn't matter...

AndrewBlake
AndrewBlake

Editor

Snopes isn't transparent. They make changes and then don't make any reference in the story that was changed that a change was made. This is a prime example of why they can't be trusted to be used by news sources. If you do a story on something Snopes says, and then they change their ruling, the news site looks like it got it wrong. There's nothing wrong in changing a ruling if new information is uncovered -- and this would be a good example. But they don't mention their changes, leaving news sites out to dry.

PeterB
PeterB

Does a armed Mall security guard make a Police officer? Does a Armed Bank security make a Police Officer?

Roadhustler63
Roadhustler63

No Peter. Generally if one is given authority to have arrest powers he/she is consider a Police Officer or Law Enforcement. Mall security and bank security cannot arrest.

PeterB
PeterB

Have you heard of Citizen's Arrest?

BillD
BillD

Peterb. Your not to bright are you !!!

lds719
lds719

@PeterB, come to my state. There are 2 and only 2 state police agencies with full statewide jurisdiction. Those are the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Natural Resources Police. I'd love to see you call a Natural Resource Police officer a bank guard. He would have fun writing you every ticket in the book.

ForestJohn
ForestJohn

Peter, we know you are a little slow. All states have a state code which identifies peace officers and their authority to enforce the law. In my state of California we have the Penal Code. If you care to do a Google search, try "CA Penal Code 830.1." Good job on this story Blue Lives; one more restaurant on my list to avoid...

MariaHasLEOSon
MariaHasLEOSon

Thanks for this post, Blue Lives. Sharing and tweeting to spread the word. ☺

NYArmyMP
NYArmyMP

Just so you know, I tried sharing this story to facebook and my Norton labeled this website as a malicious website. I know you are not but apparently now you are being censored by Norton.

Navy
Navy

People that abhor Guns Fear them rather than Respect them.

Hubert Johnson
Hubert Johnson

Lds719, Sorry, but that's not true.

Also are you referring to criminal or traffic jurisdiction?

NRP is the only true Statewide Authority.

MSP does not have traffic jurisdiction in the City of Baltimore.

All agencies listed under the Public Safety Article have statewide criminal jurisdiction for felonies and criminal misdemeanors committed in their presence that are a threat to life and property among other limited exceptions.

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@NYArmyMP Put the site on your white list, no one is censoring the site.

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

Norton thinks it's malicious because the site is bloated with ads.

lds719
lds719

@[Hubert Johnson] , my statement was geared towards "Wildlife Officers" and was to point out the authority of the Natural Resources Police which we are in agreement with. As to the State Police you are mostly correct. MSP does not have full authority to enforce the MD Traffic Article in Baltimore City, but they can enforce some of it. I don't recall which ones anymore. And even the authority of NRP is subjective. They have the technical authority to enforce any law, anywhere in MD, but it is not total in the real world. I remember a time not too long ago, that NRP officers had their traffic citation books taken away from them because the department didn't want them to enforce traffic laws. Unfortunately, as is everything in this god forsaken state, it's all political.

YourWakeUpCall
YourWakeUpCall

Incorrect. Many mall security guards are SPOs (Special Police Officer) and have full police powers on the mall property, including arrest authority.

Samuraidad
Samuraidad

I hope Outback which is a florida company realizies the State of Florida has State Wildlife, Florida Marine Patrol, state beverage, state attorney investigators, state Insurance Investigators and so many more that are state certified law enforcement officers and many others who are certified.

A nm yone who turns away law enforcement in uniform or plain clothes deserves to go oit of business. This should also include retired armed law enforcement.

Smokeybear
Smokeybear

I had to put up with this throughout my 34 year career as a Park Ranger. I had the same certification and training from the state as any other city cop, township PD, deputy sheriff, state trooper, etc. We had full police powers since 1911, but because our badges and uniform patch said "Ranger" instead of Police, we constantly had to deal with people who believed we had no authority. One woman approached me one day and began yelling at me that she was going to report me to the police because I had a sidearm and I was just a Ranger, even though I was in full uniform. And she did go to a local police department to "report" me. They set her straight.

lds719
lds719

@YourWakeUpCall , stop and think what you just wrote for a moment. If the mall guy or bank guard are SPO's they ARE police officers. They are no longer just mall security or bank guards. And the vast vast majority of these people in the state are just that, mall security or bank guards. They have no authority. And even though SPO's rarely ever make an actual arrest. Even with their authority, they usually hold them and then hand them off to real police for charging and processing the perp. In 25 years, I never saw a SPO in court as the arresting officer. Usually, they were witnesses.

Hi_estCumminsDiesel
Hi_estCumminsDiesel

you want facts wiki leaks has been 100% right everytime

IllUse1
IllUse1

I went to a military high school on Sandy Hook, NJ..A federal park and I know full well how they got dogged for being park rangers (and not real cops) and yet they had more power than the State Police in essence...Federal power..Just as much power as the Coasties up at the station there too...After HS I joined the Marines and later went on to Pa Game Commission to be a WCO...Thing thing that got me was in the final round of testing and the secondary interview process I was literally surrounded by local and state police wanting that cushy job..We all had and have the same if not more qualifications on record than most police sergeants in any department..Also, in PA people know that you don't mess with the WCO's..A hurtin can be put down fast simply for having tossed a smoke out the window...

Icabod
Icabod

Snopes quibbles. Here is an example. In July 2016, two officers were refused service at a Taco Bell. It made the news and the employee was fired.
Snopes however, rated it as "false." They found one post that was almost identical: Same date, same month in Alabama, two police officers. There were two differences from the Taco Bell. Supposedly at a MacDonald's, and an illegal alien was on the counter.
I recall going through four pages of searches to find the "MacDonald" version. It was an the wall site and only one post. All the rest of the searching brought up the Taco Bell incident. When you searched for the Taco Bell incident, you got the Snopes piece.
A month later Snopes published an unrated piece about Taco Bell.
Supposedly Snopes fact checks. However, they ignored pages about the Taco Bell and replied to a very obscure piece

Icabod
Icabod

Here's more:
Snopes "quibbles." That is, they seize on a minor or extraneous detail and build their argument on it.

As example:

"Claim: Hillary Clinton successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case.

MOSTLY FALSE
WHAT’S TRUE: In 1975, young lawyer Hillary Rodham was appointed to represent a defendant charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. Clinton reluctantly took on the case, which ended with a plea bargain for the defendant.

WHAT’S FALSE: Hillary Clinton did not volunteer to be the defendant’s lawyer, she did not laugh about the the case’s outcome, she did not assert that the complainant “made up the rape story,” she did not claim she knew the defendant to be guilty, and she did not “free” the defendant."

Notice the difference between the claim and snopes judgement.

  1. She was appointed to the case. Snopes debunks that she did not "volunteer." A fact that isn't n the claim.
  1. The case was ended with a plea bargain. Snopes says she didn't "free" the defendant." Again the claim says nothing about freeing the defendant.
  1. The case was settled with the plea bargain. That is the defendant pleaded "guilty." Snopes judgement is that Clinton did not "claim to know the defendant was guilty." Snopes is asking us to believe that Clinton allowed her client to plead guilty in open court when she didn't know he was guilty.
  1. Snopes quibbles when it states "she did not laugh about the the case’s outcome." This suggests the laughter was immediately after the case ended. However the claim stated "and later laughed about the case." Did she laugh?

"In 2014, the Washington Free Beacon published the audio of an interview that Arkansas reporter Roy Reed conducted with Clinton in the 1980s. In the interview, Clinton recalls some unusual details of the rape case, and she can be heard laughing in three instances, beginning with a joke she makes about the accuracy of polygraphs.

Clinton: Of course he claimed he didn’t. All this stuff. He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs. [laughs]"

Return to the claim: "Claim: Hillary Clinton successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case." What is false about it?