Police handcuffed and threatened a couple who questioned the orange juice charge on their bill at a Fort Walton Beach Waffle House on May 2. Cell phone video and police bodycam video recently surfaced and is going viral.
An employee asked officers to press charges against the couple if they refused to pay a higher price than what they believe the menu indicated for the delicious citrus beverage, reported The Root.
The couple, identified in a police event report as Donald Copeland and Ms. Hart, placed a to-go order around 1 a.m., but questioned the orange juice charge before they received any food.
The couple argued with the employee about it before deciding to call corporate to complain. That is when the employee decided to call police, alleging the man was “irate, screaming and cussing.”
No, this Black couple didn’t eat and refuse to pay.
They never even ate. They never received their food.
That’s why the charges were dropped. It’s not theft.
They simply wanted clarity on why they were overcharged a $1.50.
Weapons drawn. Brutal arrests.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 13, 2018
Don’t you dare step your foot into a @WaffleHouse again. Do you hear me?
Let me give you the facts here.
1. This couple never even received their food
2. It was a to-go order
3. They disputed a $1.50 charge on the receipt
4. Waffle House called the police – who arrested them. pic.twitter.com/PLXog5WDTO
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 13, 2018
After officers arrive, Copeland says something to one of them about “putting hands on me,” and the officer immediately threatens him: “Oh, I’m going to put my hands on you?! Get out of here. You want to trespass?”
As the couple tries to explain their side of the situation, the officer continues to taunt Copeland, saying, “You should come out here and talk like a man.” When Copeland walks forward to do just that, the officer changes his mind and says, “Back up.”
As Copeland was obeying the officer and walking outside, another officer pulled a taser and threatened Copeland.
The officers never seem to try to hear both sides of the argument, they just immediately took the side of the employee and did not listen to Copeland and Hart, who still did not receive any food.
One of the officers tells the couple, “If you don’t pay your bill, you’re going to jail.”
Copeland and Hart were both handcuffed as Hart cried and said, “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”
Officers then said they committed a crime by not paying their bill, Hart says: “We didn’t get no food or nothing in front of us. We didn’t get nothing from them, nothing at all. We haven’t been served at all. We haven’t been served, so how is it theft? We asked her to explain the bill to us; she gave us no food or nothing and called you guys.”
To avoid criminal charges, the couple ended up paying the bill and they were released after agreeing not to return to that Waffle House.
The officer then suggests that he is helping them, “I’m doing you a favor by not taking you to jail right now.”
The Fort Walton PD defended the officers in a Facebook post:
A cell phone video has recently been circulating on Facebook regarding an incident that occurred at a local restaurant on May 2nd, 2018. Our officers responded to 318 Miracle Strip Parkway, SW, at 0129 hours in reference to a disorderly incident between staff and a customer. So we feel it is important to set the record straight and have attached a link below of the officer’s body worn camera, where citizens can view the video in its entirety. The Fort Walton Beach Police Department conducted a full review of the incident and the actions our officers took that evening. Video from the officer’s body worn camera was reviewed in its entirety and conveyed our officers followed proper protocol when dealing with violations involving Florida State Statues [sic]. 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. 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 Fort Walton Beach Police Department strives to provide superior police services to all citizens and uses opportunities such as this to learn and refine our interactions with the public.