Fort Walton Beach, FL – The Fort Walton Beach Police Department has released bodycam video of a controversial incident that happened at a Waffle House in May (video below).
The release of the footage came after a brief clip of the incident was posted to social media, along with allegations of discrimination, CBS News reported.
Police officials reviewed the bodycam videos of the incident that occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on May 2, and determined that “our officers followed proper protocol,” according to a Facebook post on the Fort Walton Beach PD’s official page.
The post included a link to the bodycam video of one of the officers who responded to the Waffle House that showed the entire incident from the time officers arrived on the scene.
“The cell phone video being shared only shows a small part of the incident and does not include that the individuals detained were released after the situation calmed and the bill in question was satisfied - which is what the officers were trying to achieve from the beginning,” the post explained.
“We met with other interested parties in regard to this matter and all parties involved determined that while there was no misconduct of the officers that the situation could have been handled differently by both parties involved,” the police department said.
The video showed an officer arriving at the Waffle House in response to a call for a about a disorderly customer.
In the video, a man was pacing and talking on his phone inside the doorway of the restaurant.
The first officer to arrive asked the man to come outside and talk to him, and the man refused.
“I ain’t going nowhere,” the man replied in the video.
At that point, the officer asked an employee inside the restaurant if they wanted the man to be “trespassed.”
“Do you want him gone?” the officer asked.
The man and woman began explaining what happened to the officer very loudly, and set up their phone to record the exchange before they stepped outside to talk to the officer.
The woman lectured the officers and told them they’d come at her the wrong way, as she and the man continued to make a scene and disrupt the meals of other patrons in the restaurant, the video showed.
Once the man got his phone set up to film, he handed it to the woman and then walked outside with his hands up, although none of the officers had asked him to do so.
Once outside, the woman became extremely agitated when the officer told her the matter was finished, and that they just needed to pay their bill.
She indicated that she had been waiting for the officers to arrive to settle the dispute over the bill.
Both the man and the woman started screaming at the officers, and the officer warned the man that he was looking to get locked up, the video showed.
When the man appeared to be getting more aggressive as he yelled, one officer took out a pair of handcuffs and warned the man he was going to be arrested for theft if he did not pay his bill.
The man ignored him and continued to yell his side of the story at the officers, and the officer with the handcuffs finally took his Taser out of his holster and pointed it at the man, the video showed.
“Are you going to pay your bill?” the officer with the bodycam asked.
“Yes I’m paying my bill, but why’s he doing this?” the woman shrieked at the officer. “We did nothing wrong. He did nothing wrong!”
Despite the chaos caused by the yelling, the video showed the officer holstered his Taser and was able to put handcuffs on the man without any resistance. The bodycam showed the other officer kept a Taser pointed at the man until he was safely in custody.
The woman headed back inside Waffle House, ostensibly to pay their bill, while the officers walked her boyfriend over to the patrol car.
But then she returned and continued to snipe at the officers about their dispute with Waffle House, and said the employee wouldn’t talk to her until the officers went inside with her.
“We have nothing to do with that bill,” an officer told them.
Both the man and the woman started screaming at the officers again, and the man was put into the back of the patrol car, the video showed.
Then one of the officers began to take the woman into custody, and she really flew off the handle, the video showed.
In the meantime, the officer with the bodycam returned to the restaurant and asked to speak to whomever was in charge.
The manager went outside and told the officer that the couple were not trying to pay their bill, as they’d told officers, but were instead arguing with the employee over their tab.
He explained to the officer that the dispute was over a $1.50 difference in the cost of a glass of orange juice. He told the officer that the couple were “belligerent” and cursed at the Waffle House employee.
The officer asked if Waffle House wanted to press charges, and the manager responded in the affirmative.
The officer returned to the patrol car where the woman was still being handcuffed and told them the manager said they wanted to press charges.
“We didn’t even get nothing from them. We haven’t be served at all,” the woman told officer at about 11 minutes into the video.
The officers put the woman into the backseat of another patrol vehicle, separate from her boyfriend.
The bodycam video captured a shot of a large stack of bills sitting on the trunk of the police car, and the officer explained it was money from the male suspect’s pockets.
The officer went and confirmed that the couple had not received their food, and then the officer can be heard talking.
“Dude, why do people gotta make it so difficult?” one officer asked in the video.
“I don’t know,” the other officer replied.
The officer returned to the patrol car where the man began his ranting description of what happened, again.
Eventually, the video showed the officer got a word in edgewise and tried to talk to the man, but the suspect kept interrupting him. After a couple of tries, the officer gave up, and told the other officers to do whatever they wanted.
"If you want to take him, take him. I don't care,” one officer told the others.
After some more negotiation, without the male suspect screaming at police, the officers got him out of the police car and took the handcuffs off of him. They extracted a promise from him not to return to that Waffle House location again, and told him they would let him go.
“You know I'm doing you a favor by not taking you to jail now?" an officer said to the man.
The man took the question as an invitation to argue further about their initial exchange before he and his girlfriend finally left.
Waffle House sent a statement to CBS News that said they felt both sides could have handled the situation better.
“On our part, our employee could have done more to de-escalate the dispute before calling the police. We have spoken to our employees in the restaurant and will be doing additional training for the team members of this restaurant on the proper way to handle situations like this.”
Waffle House’s CEO called the woman involved in the kerfuffle to apologize, and the restaurant issued the couple a full refund the next day, CBS News reported.
Watch the bodycame video of the incident below: