UPDATE: Uniformed officer asked to leave restaurant because he was carrying his service weapon
A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer was asked to leave the Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland Friday night because he had his service weapon on him.
UPDATE: The post by the TWRA officer who was asked to leave the Outback in Cleveland Friday night because he had his service weapon on him has now been shared more than 150,000 times.
Sunday, Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson released a statement about the incident:
I was very saddened to hear the reports of a law-enforcement officer who was asked to leave a restaurant in this community. While I truly respect the restaurant for reaching out to the officer, our community must also show support to the men and women who place the badge on their chests every single day in order to protect the establishment in which the officer was asked to leave.
PREVIOUS STORY: A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer was asked to leave the Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland Friday night because he had his service weapon on him.
In a public post on Facebook, Andrew Ward shared about the experience. He said he was asked by a manager to remove his weapon and put it in his vehicle. He explained that he had to have it on his person because he was in uniform.
According to the post, the manager made a phone call, then asked the officer to leave citing company policy that makes Outback a gun free zone.
The post has already been shared over 31,000 times.
Ward said Outback contacted him and apologized. They also gave him a $100 gift card.
In a follow-up Facebook post, Ward shared why the manager confronted him. He says a patron at another table reported being scared for her life.
"She said police are shooting people, and she could have gotten shot in the parking lot, and the manager had to walked her and her husband to their vehicle," Ward wrote in one of three posts he published about the incident. "We were told it was a policy they don't allow guns - if we would have known there was a complaint we would not have went anywhere! Seriously, she was scared for her life? We were joking and laughing with our server as we ordered, then prayed. What was scary about that?"
Ward said he and his family have accepted Outback's apology. He said they understand that a mistake was made.
"There was a mistake made and that’s it... we all make mistakes and must move forward with our lives," Ward wrote.
Channel 3 reached out to Outback for comment. A spokesperson from the corporate office wrote in an email to Channel 3 that the manager made a mistake.
We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their sidearms while dining with us. A manager made a mistake. We have contacted the guest personally and apologized.