The Fresno Police Department released body camera video of customers who "barricaded" outside a restaurant on Mother's Day as an officer ordered them to move so he could escort code enforcement into the business to cite the owner for opening amid the coronavirus shutdown.
The clip also shows the officer handcuffing a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and walking him to a patrol vehicle after a scuffle outside the Waffle Shop doorway.
'It does appear that the officer was acting lawfully'
But Chief of Police Andrew Hall said in a news release late Monday that "it does appear that the officer was acting lawfully while assisting Code Enforcement. It also appears that the individual in this case did obstruct the officer in his duties. The officer's detention of this individual allowed for Code Enforcement to complete their duties. As a result, the individual was only detained and was released without any further charges being filed."
Hall added, "I am asking the public to always respect the authority of a police officer. Pushing, striking, delaying or obstructing an officer is against the law."
On Sunday afternoon, the chief said he was "concerned over the manner in which this incident was handled as it doesn't appear to be consistent with our Department's policy concerning demonstrations or the directions I have given officers via a Chief's memorandum for handling enforcement of the Emergency Order," KFSN-TV reported.
Hall's Monday statement reiterated his concerns and noted that he ordered an Internal Affairs investigation.
What's on the body camera video?
The video shows the unidentified officer speaking with code enforcement who tell him the people in front of Waffle Shop's entrance won't let them "in the damn door."
The officer then approaches the entrance and says, "OK, folks, make a way."
"We're not gonna let you in," one person tells the officer. "We've been waiting for hours," another person says.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
After this point, the officer appears to make physical contact with customers, but the body camera doesn't show if he initiates it or they initiate it. A cellphone video shot from behind showed a white-haired man either bumped or shoved out of the way — and on the body camera clip, that same man tells the officer "you did assault me, and I didn't do anything."
Soon the officer is confronting and handcuffing a different man — Vietnam vet Tom Miller — after it appears Miller pulls away from the officer.
"Get your hands off of me!" Miller hollers at the officer before being handcuffed.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
Miller's wife, Kelly, holds his arm as the officer walks him to a patrol car, the Fresno Bee reported.
"That's a violation of his civil rights, you stupid bastard," a woman shouts. Others call the officer an "asshole" and a "son of a bitch" guilty of "police brutality."
Miller's wife also tells the officer that her husband "served four tours in Vietnam. He's a diabetic. He has a heart condition." Finally the officer places Miller in the patrol vehicle.
Sgt. Walter Boston told the Bee on video that "a bunch of citizens blocked the doorway and in essence barricaded code enforcement from being able to enter the business, so they called police." The people blocking the doorway stayed for the officer and "weren't going to allow law enforcement in," Boston added on the clip.
Waffle Shop owner Ammar Ibrahim told the Bee he received a $5,000 fine for opening Sunday and accused code enforcement officers of using heavy-handed tactics to served the citation. He added to the paper a confrontation could have been avoided if the officers had called his shop and asked him to come outside — and that police didn't have "jurisdiction" in the matter.