Attorneys representing a black customer seen on video getting choked by a police officer outside of a North Carolina Waffle House announced a wider investigation Monday into whether the restaurant chain has a pattern of discrimination based on race and sexual orientation.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said he wants surveillance footage from the store after a restaurant worker allegedly directed homophobic slurs at Anthony Wall, 22, on the night of May 4. Wall was later choked by a police officer responding to the disturbance.
Wall was with his younger sister, whom he had earlier escorted to her high school prom, when they tried to sit down at an uncleared table at a Waffle House in Warsaw, east of Fayetteville.
"They sat down at the table, and note what the first statements were from the Waffle House employee," Crump said at a news conference. "It wasn't welcoming or inviting and almost so inappropriate I have problems even repeating [what] he told Anthony Wall, his little sister and others in his party."
Wall told the waiter, who was white, that he cannot speak to him, his sister and her friends in that manner, Crump said. And then the situation escalated.
"You will see from the video evidence as well as other objective evidence that indicates it was the Waffle House employees who were the initial aggressors," he added. "The Waffle House were unprofessional to their customers. Waffle House employees used homophobic slurs to Anthony Wall."
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Wall said the employee used the word "f-gg-t" and also threatened physical assault.
Police were called to the scene. Wall's subsequent arrest was captured by bystanders and uploaded to Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 1.2 million times.
During an altercation with a Warsaw police officer, Wall — still dressed in a black-and-tan tuxedo vest — put his hands up as he cried out, "Get your hands off of me!" and "Get your supervisor out here!"
The unidentified officer, who was much larger in size than Wall's 150-pound frame, slammed him against a window and then threw him to the ground.
"I was trying to get his arm off my throat to stop him from choking me," Wall said Monday, adding, "I was not trying to fight him at all."
He also objected to being left in the arresting officer's car with a police dog snapping at him from the back seat. Wall was charged with disorderly conduct in public as well as resisting, obstructing and delaying a law enforcement officer.
Warsaw Police Chief Eric Southerland previously declined to comment to NBC News about details of the investigation or the officer's actions, but said an officer can use physical force on a subject if the person is not complying. An internal investigation was ongoing.
The mayor of Warsaw, A.J. Connors, who is black, said on Friday that he doesn't believe Wall's arrest was racially motivated and it was simply about a "young man who had broken the law, and a law enforcement officer arrested him."
Waffle House responded Monday to Wall's claims about its employees, saying it was reviewing the case to determine if disciplinary action was warranted.
The company said an employee who got into a dispute with Wall and called police was also African-American.
"The race of Mr. Wall and the members of his party had absolutely nothing to do with that employee’s decision to contact the police," the company added. "Waffle House prides itself for a long history of inclusion and is a welcoming place for all."
Waffle House, which has more than 2,100 locations in 25 states, also noted that it was Wall who admitted to a local news outlet that he first caused a disturbance with employees while inside the store.
Crump on Monday accused Waffle House of "a practice and policy of discriminating against African-Americans." He stopped short, however, of announcing a formal lawsuit, but said he wants police bodycam and surveillance footage as part of potential evidence.
Other recent incidents involving Waffle House to gain national attention include the arrest of a black female customer at a location in Alabama during a dispute over plastic cutlery and a black woman who said she was locked out of another Alabama location while white patrons were eating inside.