Outrage as video shows police officer choking black man in tuxedo at Waffle House
The altercation between Wall and the police officer early Saturday was captured on cellphone video, which has been viewed more than 1 million times on Facebook.
Anthony Wall's night started by escorting his 16-year-old sister to her high school prom outside Fayetteville, North Carolina.
It ended with the 22-year-old black man in handcuffs and face down outside a Waffle House. A now widely shared video of Wall being choked and manhandled by a white 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 the police officer early Saturday was captured on cellphone video, which has been 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.
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 respond to requests for comment.
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, North Carolina, 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 that 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.
The officer's hands "should have never been around my neck like that if my hands were in the air," he added.
Nearly a week later, the Warsaw Police Department said it is continuing to interview witnesses and gather additional video as part of a wider investigation.
Warsaw Police Chief Eric Southerland declined to comment to NBC News on details of 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.
Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee said his office is also investigating the case, and has asked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for its help.
Footage from Wall's arrest has prompted complaints from both the local NAACP chapter 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 breasts.
"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 Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in the 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's Duplin County chapter, 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 training for employees.
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 that it continued to cooperate with police.
The company also noted that it was Wall who admitted to first causing a disturbance with employees inside the store.
It said that it would respond to King, but that in the cases of Wall and Clemons, "our review of these incidents do not indicate race was an issue in the decision to call the police."
"We train our employees to call the police whenever they feel in danger, or if they feel their customers are in danger," the company's statement continued.
But Moore, of the Duplin County NAACP, said that regardless of what happened initially with Wall, 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 de-escalated the situation and moved on," Moore said of the officer. "I didn't see any of that."