Delivery Driver, Security Guard Press Charges Against Each Other After Violent Altercation at Popeyes
Capitol Heights, Md Sept 16 2020
A delivery driver and a security guard are pressing charges against each other after a violent altercation at a Capitol Heights, Md., Popeyes on Saturday night. The delivery driver, Stephanie Samuels, sees the incident as part of a larger narrative of law enforcement brutality against Black people. Both Samuels and the security guard are Black.
In a video that Samuels, a Capitol Heights resident, posted to social media, the security guard grabbed her arms near a restaurant exit and repeatedly said “put your hands up” before appearing to deploy a chemical irritant. Samuels said he pushed her and grabbed her by the neck. (While Samuels names the guard in her post, DCist is not sharing his name because we have not been able to contact him for comment.)
On Monday, Samuels and more than a dozen other protesters returned to the Popeyes to “shut it down.” Capitol Heights Popeyes has not responded to multiple requests for comment or to confirm whether the guard is employed there.
Samuels told DCist that she decided to share her experience publicly because she did not want to “let a man get away with doing that to me.” She said she felt “violated and “helpless.”
Over the phone from the scene of Monday’s demonstration, she said that “it’s not only traumatic for me, but for my children as well,” who were outside the restaurant on Saturday.
Samuels, who works for Uber Eats, arrived at the Popeyes around 9 p.m. Saturday night to pick up food for delivery.
As she was leaving the restaurant, the guard told her she couldn’t exit through the door she was approaching, she recounted. A physical back-and-forth ensued, per Samuels, in which he grabbed her as she continued to walk through that door.
“So I threw the soda at him, and he just got angrier and grabbed me by my neck and pinned me in the corner,” she said. He then handcuffed her and sprayed a chemical irritant at her, she said. “[He] started to mace me continuously until I could not breathe, choking me and macing me at the same time.”
The partial footage posted by Samuels shows him grabbing her arms, placing one hand on or near her neck and repeatedly saying “put your hands up” before appearing to deploy a chemical irritant.
Samuels said she eventually broke away from the guard and called the police. A spokesperson for Prince George’s County Police confirmed that an officer arrived at the scene and wrote a report. Samuels said she then filed a complaint with the District Court for Prince George’s County. Court records show her as a plaintiff in a charge of second-degree assault, with the guard as the defendant.
Records from the District Court for Prince George’s County show that the guard also filed a criminal complaint against Samuels on Monday, with the charge of second-degree assault.
At the time of the incident, Samuels’ daughters, ages 1 and 7, were in a car parked outside, she said. She said one of her daughters is now “traumatized” and that this will impact how her daughter thinks of police.
Samuels wants to see the guard’s license revoked and wants “to get him arrested for what he did,” she told DCist.
The guard is a licensed private detective and security guard in Maryland, according to a spokesperson for Maryland State Police. Both types of licenses are issued by the state, but organizations that employ these licensees may also provide them training, per the spokesperson. DCist has not been able to confirm whether he was working in one of these capacities at Popeyes on Saturday night.
The Popeyes corporation told DCist in a statement it plans to cooperate with local law enforcement regarding the incident.
“We have no tolerance for violence in our restaurants and will always act swiftly to deal with it,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. “We have reviewed the available facts with our franchisee and are very concerned by the apparent aggressive actions of the off-duty police officer involved. We will fully cooperate with the local police department and expect that action will need to be taken.”
The company — founded in New Orleans in the 1970s and now owned by Canada-based Restaurant Brands International, which also owns Burger King and Tim Hortons —came under fire in June when it tweeted “Popeyes is nothing without black lives.” The post was criticized and quickly deleted.
The demonstration at the Capitol Heights Popeyes on Monday comes at a time of near-daily protests in the D.C. area and throughout the country against the violent mistreatment of Black people by some members of law enforcement. For Samuels, what she experienced is a part of that larger story.
“The video speaks for itself,” Samuels said. “That’s not how you detain anyone, especially at a time like this, with all the police brutality going on.”
Samuels spent much of Monday protesting outside the Capitol Heights Popeyes.
“I was surprised that people actually showed up,” she said. “I had more support than I had negativity.”