Outrage as video shows police officer choking black man in tuxedo at Waffle House

Outrage as video shows police officer choking black man in tuxedo at Waffle House

News Staff

Anthony Wall’s night started by escorting his 16-year-old sister to her high school prom outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

It ended with the 22-year-old black man in handcuffs and face down outside of a Waffle House. A now-widely-shared video of Wall being choked and manhandled by a police officer has triggered an official review and renewed national concerns from racial-justice groups about police use of force.

The altercation between Wall and a police officer early Saturday was captured on cellphone and viewed more than 1 million times on Facebook. Wall was still dressed in his black-and-tan tuxedo vest when the incident occurred at a Waffle House in Warsaw, North Carolina.

At one point, Wall cried out, “Get your hands off of me!” and “Get your supervisor out here!” as the officer grabbed him by his neck before slamming him to the pavement.

Nearly a week later, the Warsaw Police Department said they are continuing to interview witnesses and gather additional video as part of a wider investigation.

Wall was charged with disorderly conduct in public as well as resisting, obstructing and delaying a law enforcement officer, and released following the incident. He did not immediately return requests for comment.

Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee said his office is also investigating the case, and asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for its help.

Videos posted to social media show only a short snippet of what occurred before the arrest: Wall and others were shouting back and forth with a Waffle House worker behind a register.

In an interview with ABC affiliate WTVD in Raleigh, Wall said he and his sister had just left her prom on the night of May 4 to get food at the restaurant. He didn’t detail what led to the fight with workers.

Wall told the station he was taking responsibility for his actions inside the Waffle House. But when police were called, one of the officers — who was twice his size — began to choke him.

“I was pretty much trying to scream for air and to breathe because he was holding my throat, and that’s when I got aggressive with him because, you are choking me,” Wall said.

“I’m not trying to be a person that dies out here or anything like that, I just want you to stop choking me,” he added.

He added that the officer’s hands “should have never been around my neck like that if my hands were in the air.”

Warsaw Police Chief Eric Southerland declined to comment to NBC News on details about the investigation or the officer’s actions, but said the internal review should be completed next week.

He added that an officer can use physical force on a subject if the person is not complying.

“The use of force is never pretty, naturally, in any manner, but it is required to get someone who is resisting under control,” Southerland said Thursday.

Footage from Wall’s arrest has stirred complaints from both the local NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which noted in a statement that the incident comes after a case last month at another Waffle House, in Alabama, where a black customer, Chikesia Clemons, was arrested after a dispute over plastic cutlery. A video showed police throwing Clemons to the floor and inadvertently exposing her chest.

“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.”

Robert Osborne Moore, president of the NAACP Duplin County Branch, said police in Warsaw, a small town of just over 3,000 people, should undergo racial sensitivity training.

“The chokehold maneuver is what I have an issue with,” he added. “You don’t put a hold on someone that could threaten their life.”

And Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted Thursday that Waffle House also needs to take responsibility for how its employees handle customers. She called for a boycott until the chain commits to talking about racism and holds trainings for staff.

Coffee giant Starbucks is initiating such training later this month at more than 8,000 U.S. stores after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia store while waiting for a business meeting — an incident that touched off protests and led to a wider conversation about how people of color are treated in public spaces.

Waffle House, which has more than 2,100 locations in 25 states, said in a statement that it was looking into last week’s arrest to “gather all the facts” and continued to cooperate with police.

The company also noted that it was Wall who admitted to first causing a disturbance inside the store with employees.

But Moore, of the local NAACP, said regardless of what happened initially, the sight of a white officer aggressively taking down an unarmed black man remains difficult to watch — especially when several such instances have ended in death.

“He could have deescalated the situation and moved on,” Moore said of the officer. “I didn’t see any of that.”