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.”