The video starts with the officer already entangled with a tuxedo-wearing Anthony Wall, who is pushed against the plate-glass window of a North Carolina Waffle House, choked, then slammed to the ground.
It’s unclear from the video what led up to this moment, but those 19 seconds of violence that Wall posted Tuesday in a profanity-filled video on Facebook — pleading with people to re-post — were enough to spark a police investigation and nationwide outrage, including growing calls to boycott Waffle House.
The incident comes just weeks after another controversial use of force by police at one of the 24-hour restaurants.
“We’re once again outraged by a video showing police officers using excessive force on an unarmed, nonviolent African American Waffle House customer,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “Once again this incident was sparked when a Waffle House employee called the police after the patron allegedly complained about customer service. And once again the police responded with violence.”
On Saturday, Wall, 22, had just served as his 16-year-old sister’s prom date, according to Raleigh, N.C., ABC affiliate WTVD. Afterward, they stopped at a Waffle House in Warsaw, 70 miles southeast of Raleigh.
At some point, Wall and his younger sister got into a shouting match with people at the restaurant. WTVD showed another video, apparently from a cellphone, that featured Wall’s sister, in a prom dress, screaming and swearing at employees.
Someone at the restaurant then called police, though it’s unclear whether it was a Waffle House employee.
The video picked up after that point. The officer, wearing a vest with the word “Police” on the back, pushed Wall against the plate-glass window. When Wall protested, the officer wrapped his hands around Wall’s neck, held him against the window and squeezed.
“Get your hands off of me,” Wall said, struggling to speak.
Seconds later, the officer slammed Wall to the ground in front of the gold Mercedes-Benz that Wall and his sister had posed by for pictures hours earlier.
The officer told Wall to put his hands behind his back.
Wall demanded that the officer “get your supervisor out here and get your hands off me.”
Another video, apparently from a few minutes later, showed the same officer — this time accompanied by a second officer — pulling a handcuffed Wall to a police vehicle.
“Get your hands off me!” Wall screamed. “Your partner got me. You don’t have to touch me.”
Wall did not immediately respond to messages from The Washington Post.
He told WTVD that he “was pretty much trying to scream for air and trying to breathe because he was holding my throat, and that’s when I got aggressive with him because you are choking me,” Wall said. He added that he was not fighting the officer; his arms were in the air when the officer choked him.
Warsaw Police Chief Eric Southerland did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. His department did not provide details of why the officer used that amount of force or explain what happened in the moments before the altercation.
In a statement, Southerland told the Raleigh News & Observer: “We are currently investigating the whole incident, interviewing witnesses and gathering additional video. We have also reached out to the District Attorney’s Office to make him aware of the investigation. Once the investigation is complete and the District Attorney has had a chance to review the case we will provide the public with an update on the findings.”
It is unclear whether the officer, who has not been identified, remains on duty while police investigate his use of force. On Facebook, the video had been shared more than 25,000 times, and many commenters said the officer should be fired, charged with a crime or both.
As the video spread — along with the news that police had used force on another black person at a Waffle House — calls intensified to boycott the 24-hour eatery.
“Family, let’s stay out of @WaffleHouse,” Bernice King, the youngest daughter the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote Thursday on Twitter, “until the corporate office legitimately and seriously commits to 1) discussion on racism, 2) employee training, and 3) other plans to change; and until they start to implement changes.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the company “must conduct an extensive review and overhaul of its policies to ensure that employees do not needlessly subject customers of color to police contact and brutality,” adding that “Waffle House cannot continue to avoid this issue.”
Gerald Griggs, an Atlanta lawyer who has led demonstrations at restaurants since May 4, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is encouraging “economic disruption” against a “corporation that is insensitive to people of color.”
Another police slamming incident at a Waffle House in Alabama has sparked similar outrage.
As The Washington Post’s Alex Horton and Rachel Siegel reported, officers in Saraland, Ala., wrestled a black woman to the ground at a Waffle House, exposing her breasts in the process:
The video shows Chikesia Clemons, 25, sitting on a chair at the diner as one of the officers grabs her neck and right wrist in an attempt to subdue her. Clemons describes a disagreement with a store employee that triggered the police response. She soon appears to realize that the tube top she is wearing is slipping, and she raises her arms to cover her bust line.
“You’re not going to grab on me like that, no,” Clemons tells the officer, who appears to speak to another officer off-camera.
What happens next is unclear. The widely circulated video of the incident filmed by Clemons’s friend Canita Adams suddenly jumps to the moment when Clemons and the two officers go to the ground in a violent tumble. It is not clear from the video who initiated the struggle that forced Clemons and the officers to the tile floor.
“What are you doing?” Clemons asks during the struggle.
“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer says.
Waffle House said in a statement Friday that it was approaching to King to discuss her concerns, and that on the basis of the company’s review of the altercations, race was not an issue in the decision to call police in Alabama or North Carolina.
“We train our employees to call the police whenever they feel in danger, or if they feel their customers are in danger,” the statement said.
The Alabama incident immediately sparked comparisons to the arrest of two men at a Philadelphia Starbucks as they waited for a third man to arrive to talk about business investment opportunities.
Afterward, Starbucks decided to close all of its 8,000 U.S. stores on an afternoon this month to train employees in recognizing and addressing implicit bias.
In North Carolina, Southerland, the Warsaw police chief, said people should not conflate the narratives of different incidents in distant states. Instead, he said, people should reserve judgment until they hear the full story.
“I wish people would not blow things out of proportion and not let one situation create any additional situations,” Southerland said.