Police have launched an internal investigation into the actions of officers seen in a video taking down a Black man holding his baby at an Applebee’s restaurant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, mistakenly thinking he was among a group of hit-and-run suspects believed to be hiding in the bathroom.
The cellphone video taken by employees of an Applebee’s restaurant in Kenosha on July 20 shows officers taking the man down and commotion erupting in the restaurant as someone shouts, “Somebody grab the baby!”
Police were led to the restaurant in a search for suspects in a hit-and-run crash, described as a Black male and female — wearing a red shirt, a scarf, and a bun on her head — with a baby running toward a Kohl’s or a Menards, a criminal complaint obtained by Law&Crime said. Applebee’s staff called police dispatch, saying a group matching that description had come into the restaurant and appeared nervous, the document said.
Once there, an officer found a female and male matching the description, the complaint said. But the female wore a white shirt, not a red one, although she had a bun in her hair, while the male was sitting down, holding a baby, the document said.
While on the floor, police ordered the man to put his hands behind his back. An officer “delivered several strong side hand and forearm strikes” to ensure compliance, the complaint said.
Another officer saw the woman fighting with another officer, pulling her arm away and “actively resisting efforts to take her into custody,” the document said.
She continued to “yell and scream while officers attempted to place her in custody, which caused a disturbance inside of the restaurant,” the complaint said.
Prosecutors filed charges against the 24-year-old father and his 21-year-old wife with less-serious misdemeanor charges for resisting an officer and disorderly conduct, criminal complaints show. The wife had an additional charge filed against her for having a baggie of 3.08 grams of marijuana in her purse police found after she was taken into custody, the document showed.
The status of the hit-and-run suspects was not disclosed on Friday. A police department spokesperson did not immediately return an email seeking comment. An email to Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley inquiring about the charging decisions on the couple and further information about the hit-and-run suspects was not immediately returned.
In a statement, a police spokesman said it is reviewing the use of force, reported ABC7 Chicago.
“The Kenosha Police Department has an internal process in place to review our officer’s use of force that is more robust than what the state requires,” the statement said. “We were aware of the incident immediately as a result of that process and started a review of it. Currently, it is under investigation. The investigation, when complete, will be comprehensive and dictate whether the officers acted appropriately or not and if any disciplinary action or additional training is deemed necessary.”
The video sparked outrage over racial justice again in a city reeling from the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white officer, and the deadly unrest that followed.
“Now we have another situation where a young man was assaulted with his baby in his arms, and harm was brought to the baby,” said Tanya McLean, the executive director of Leaders of Kenosha, a conduit for social, transformative, and restorative justice, in a news conference on Wednesday. “That is unacceptable.”
Applebee’s fired the restaurant’s manager Jennifer Harris and cut the hours of one of two employees who shot the video of the confrontation, the workers’ lawyer, William Sulton, told Law&Crime.
“Applbee’s was wrong to fire Ms. Harris,” he said. “Applebee’s still has an opportunity to make this right.”
Sulton is relieved they shot the video.
“Thank God they did,” he said. “It was their video footage that actually shows what happens.”
“The safety and well-being of our guests and team members is a top priority and we do not condone violence or discrimination of any kind,” Cas Banaszek, Vice President of Operations at the local Applebee’s franchisee said in a statement emailed to Law&Crime. “We are committed to cooperating with the authorities in their investigation and any additional questions can be directed to the Kenosha Police Department.”
“The only person that seemed to have a voice of reason was the Applebee’s employees trying to get the baby, but the police officers — it just does not appear that they were using good judgment, and that’s just not OK,” McLean said. “We want to know why police officers are not being respectful to community members here in this city. What is it that makes you feel as if you need to be so overly aggressive, so confrontational, just like you’re ready for a fight, like you’re ready to see bad things happen.”
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