A uniformed officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency said he was asked to leave a "gun-free zone" restaurant because he was carrying his service weapon, WTVC-TV reported.
Andrew Ward on Friday posted an account of his experience on Facebook, noting that he and his wife stopped by an Outback Steakhouse for dinner and the manager asked him to put his gun in his truck.
"I let her know that I couldn’t because I was in uniform," Ward wrote. "She then went and made a call and came back and we were asked to leave because Outback is a gun-free zone."
What was behind all this?
Ward wrote that a customer seated nearby was “scared for her life” because “police are shooting people” and demanded "to be escorted to her vehicle out of fear of being shot."
How did Ward react?
While Ward said he doesn't blame the manager, he called the situation "ridiculous and we will never go back there ever again."
"What is this country coming to?" Ward asked on Facebook. "A uniformed Law Enforcement Officer who is sworn to protect and serve the public is refused service because they have a firearm! I am disgusted and have no other words!!!"
More from Ward:
Folks we need to turn our attention to people like this who try and push their agenda on all those around them. When an entire restaurant full of other happy people were completely fine with my presence. As a country we need to stand up for each other as so many who have shared this post have done. I am truly humbled by the support we received.
How did Outback respond?
Ward added in his post that Outback apologized for the incident.
"We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their side arms inside our restaurants. A manager made a mistake and we have discussed this with her," a company official told WTVC in a statement about the incident at the Cleveland, Tennessee, establishment. "We have contacted the guest personally and apologized."
Ward noted in a follow-up Facebook post that the manager was sending him and his wife a $100 gift card — but had to escort the customer who was scared for her life and her husband to their vehicle.
"Seriously she was scared for her life?" he wrote. "We were joking and laughing with our server as we ordered then prayed. What was scary about that??" Ward added to WTVC that he also spoke to Outback's regional manager and the vice president of operations who "have apologized profusely and I have accepted their apology and the issue in my opinion has been concluded."
Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson issued the following statement to the station:
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.
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)