Myrtle Beach, SC – A Myrtle Beach police officer was blasted on social media on Wednesday, after she asked a homeless man and a customer to leave a McDonald’s restaurant as requested by management (video below.)
The customer, Yossi Gallo, posted a video of the incident to Facebook, which has since gone viral.
According to the Myrtle Beach Police Department, an unnamed homeless man had already been warned to leave the McDonald’s property, after he was allegedly panhandling and harassing customers in the restaraunt, The Sun News reported.
Sometime later, Gallo arrived at the restaurant, and noticed the man in the parking lot. He then invited him to come inside with him, and purchased the man some food, Gallo said in the video.
“Officers were dispatched to the location after receiving a call from an employee of the business, that a male was in the parking lot asking people for money,” MBPD Captain Joey Crosby told The Sun News. “Upon arriving at the restaurant, an employee approached the officer and indicated the male was inside the establishment.”
The employee asked the responding officer, PFC Assia Sououd, to issue a trespass warning to the man, and to remove him from the restaurant, Capt. Crosby said.
The video showed PFC Sououd as she spoke with the alleged panhandler, who was seated by himself.
“Ma’am, he didn’t ask me for money,” Gallo said from a nearby table. “... He didn’t even ask me for food! I brought him from outside.”
“Okay, it’s not just you,” PFC Sououd told him, as she returned to her conversation with the man and calmly explained why he was being asked to leave.
“By the way, you guys suck,” Gallo turned and yelled at the employees. “He didn’t even ask me for food.”
“You guys suck!” he began yelling repeatedly.
“Sir, you’re being disorderly,” an employee told Gallo, as his voice became louder.
“Okay, we’re here, because apparently, he’s asked multiple people,” PFC Sououd tried to explain to Gallo. “Multiple people have complained, so it’s not just you, okay? If management is asking you to quiet down, quiet down.”
Gallo resumed his argument with the employee.
“I understand your compassion for others. I do,” the employee told him. “But you do not have to raise your voice that way.”
PFC Sououd continued to speak with the homeless man as she allowed him to eat his meal.
“Crazy mother f*****s,” Gallo muttered in the video.
An employee eventually asked PFC Sououd to have Gallo leave the restaurant, as well, which prompted Gallo to begin arguing with the officer over whether or not he could get a refund.
She calmly suggested that Gallo get the employees name, and told him he would have to contact management regarding a refund.
“I’m getting kicked out of here because I gave a homeless guy food,” Gallo began telling other patrons, before he started to demand that another receipt of his purchase be printed out.
An employee tried to explain to him that he was actually being kicked out because of his disorderly antics, but Gallo continued to argue.
Another employee eventually brought Gallo his receipt, which he had left on his food tray, and he was escorted out of the business.
He then invited the man to get into his vehicle, so they could go eat elsewhere.
The store’s owner, Joel Pellicci Jr., subsequently issued a statement regarding the incident.
“At my restaurant, the goal is to provide our customers with a positive and welcoming experience each time they visit,” Pellicci told The Sun News. “Unfortunately, the individual in this video has a history of disruptive behavior and has been asked to leave by management and police on several occasions.”
As news of the video spread, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune showed her support for PFC Sououd and the MPD on Thursday.
"It makes me very sad that we live in a society where a business owner is trying to protect his staff and his customers and our police department are trying to do what’s best when a business owner calls them,” Bethune told The Sun News. “That people can turn that around to such hatred to the point of making threats and just going above and beyond what a normal reaction to a situation like this should be.”
The mayor noted that the real focus should be finding ways to help the homeless population – a task that she said the MPD strives to carry out every day.
“I think it’s very sad that it’s come to this,” Bethune said. “It does hurt Myrtle Beach, it hurts the image of our police department...I feel they do an incredible job and I know they work as hard as they can in situations like this to be human and to treat people just with a lot of respect and dignity."
Bethune, who viewed bodycam footage of the incident, commended PFC Sououd for her interactions with the alleged panhandler and with Gallo.
"She handled herself by following proper protocol, but not only following it, I feel that she exceeded it,” Bethune said. “She communicated with this particular gentleman in a very kind and empathetic manner and I felt that she did her job in a very professional way.”
The mayor noted that Gallo’s outburst caused the situation to get “out of hand,” but that the officer handled him appropriately, as well.
Bethune said that the city has been flooded with phone calls since the video went viral, but declined to elaborate on the nature of the calls.
"I think it’s important for people not to just overreact to what they first see and hear, but to really get the facts of the matter," she said.
Blue Lives Matter's Editor-in-Chief explained that this was a pretty simple situation, "Somebody who has been repeatedly told to stay off of private property doesn't gain the right to come back because some random person invited them to."
You can watch PFC Sououd's interaction with the men in the video below: