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Off-duty officer body-slams upset Walmart shopper who refuses to wear mask in store

An off-duty police officer working security at Walmart in Birmingham, Ala., brought a shopper to the ground after she reportedly refused to wear a face mask. (Video: Dominique Starks via Storyful)

An Alabama woman who was body-slammed Tuesday at a Walmart in Birmingham by an off-duty police officer after refusing to wear a face mask and allegedly acting disorderly is facing criminal charges, police say, and the officer is under investigation.

The charges for the unidentified woman and the inquiry into the unnamed officer, who was working security for the store, are the result of a widely watched Facebook video showing the masked officer slamming the woman to the ground.

The video begins with a woman standing in front of baked goods in the store while the officer pins her arms behind her back to handcuff her. Another woman wearing a blue T-shirt stands by, yelling obscenities to people in the store for unknown reasons.

The detained woman makes an inaudible noise and shifts her body to her left with the officer still seemingly tinkering with the cuffs on her wrists.

When she turns toward the nearby screaming woman, the officer grabs the handcuffed woman’s left thigh and hurls her to the ground.

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A harmonized “ooh” from onlookers follows as the woman lies face down, the tips of her red-burgundy braids touching the floor.

The other woman who was yelling becomes even more animated on her cellphone, screaming, “This [expletive] just boomed her” and “because she didn’t wear a [expletive] mask!” She looks to the crowd and shrieks for someone to “record this [expletive].”

The woman in blue shouts to the officer that the handcuffed woman had hit her head and that he gave her a concussion. She hurls more insults at him.

The free woman tries to make more calls on her cellphone to someone she and the other woman might know, but appears to have no success.

Another clip shows the handcuffed woman in a verbal altercation with a woman. While in handcuffs, she spits in the other woman’s face before being escorted out of the store.

The Birmingham Police Department became aware of the video the same day of the incident, said Sgt. Rod Mauldin in a Thursday news conference.

“The reason for the officer’s contact was disorderly conduct and not just the mere violation of a face covering ordinance,” he told reporters.

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Mauldin said a preliminary investigation into the incident suggests that a Walmart associate asked the woman to wear a face mask before entering the store. Instead of complying, she became disorderly, which led to her contact with the officer.

The woman continued to resist, so the officer “used a takedown measure” to regain control of the situation. That decision was made because of “the other threat factors in the store,” Mauldin said, without elaborating.

The woman was not injured, and she refused medical attention, according to Mauldin.

She now faces charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, criminal trespassing in the third degree, possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Investigators with the internal affairs division of the Birmingham Police Department are looking into use of force protocols employed by the officer, Mauldin said.

“We understand we’re operating in trying times,” he told reporters. “Our records indicate, we have not issued any citations or made any arrests as it relates to the shelter-in-place ordinance or the face-covering ordinance. We have made a valiant effort to gain compliance and cooperation, and we will continue to do so working with the citizens of Birmingham.”

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