Social media uproar after officers refused service in restaurants

Social media reaction was swift after word spread that local police officers reported being refused service at restaurants two restaurants in Louisiana this weekend.

The first incident was reported at the Taco Bell in the Kingsville section of Pineville on Thursday night around 10:30. The second was reported at Johnny Carino's restaurant on MacArthur Drive in Alexandria on Saturday.

The Taco Bell incident spread after being posted early Friday morning to Facebook by Shane Lopez. Later, a man who identified himself as the Pineville Police Department officer involved in the incident — Greg Credeur — posted about it on Facebook.

"When I got inside there was a Pineville City Police Officer that was standing in line. He flagged me to order ahead of him and I could hear commotion in the back. The guy running the register (Jason) took my order, took my cash, and asked my name for the receipt," reads Lopez's post. "When then the officer stepped back up, I then noticed he was visibly agitated and annoyed. He said 'I don't think I'm wanna eat here tonight. I'll go someplace else', and left. Respectful. Professional.

"Confused, I leaned over, past the cashier, to look into the back and could see the commotion was over a stuffed plush pig that several employees were playing with and making squealing noises."

The Town Talk confirmed that Credeur is a Pineville officer, and that the department had been advised of what happened. Pineville Chief Don Weatherford issued a statement on Sunday night, saying what happened was "unsettling" to him but was satisfied that the restaurant was handling the incident appropriately.

Credeur had posted on Facebook his thanks to Lopez for sharing news of the incident, saying he didn't "think I've ever felt that disrespected in my life simply because of the uniform I wear."

Credeur said he's stopped for a quick meal at the fast-food restaurant, but noticed that several employees in the back "said 'the pigs are here' and began laughing while pointing the toy pig toward me and making pig noises," reads his post.

He said the employee at the register, identified only as Jason, laughed while looking at his coworkers, but tried to brush it off with Credeur by saying they only were joking. That's when Credeur allowed Lopez to order before him, then decided that he'd leave instead.

A message left on Sunday with Taco Bell's corporate public relations wasn't immediately returned. One comment on Lopez's post claimed that a district manager learned of the incident and "went there right after, interviewed everyone, heads rolled."

And one man posted about the incident on Taco Bell's official Facebook page and received a response that the company and the franchise owner, B&G Food Enterprises, "in no way endorse this sentiment," it reads.

"We are deeply appreciative of the men and women who have taken the oath to serve and protect our communities. Our franchisee has launched an investigation into this matter and will take appropriate action."

It also stated that the franchise owner, the largest operator of Taco Bell restaurants in Louisiana with headquarters in Morgan City, had reached out to the department. The statement identified the department as the Alexandria Police Department, however.

The reaction of people to the posts was swift, with most outraged at the treatment of Credeur.

"I will never enter Taco Bell on Military Hey in Pineville EVER," wrote one woman. "Shame on the employees that showed such disrespect. You are all damn lucky the police don't treat you that way when responding to your emergency!"

Weatherford said he spoke to Credeur, who also is a military veteran, and that Credeur said he didn't want to pursue the matter further. But he acknowledged that the story has grown since Friday, saying his department and officers have received "overwhelming support" while Taco Bell "has been inundated with calls for firings and boycotts."

"Taco Bell in Pineville has always been a valued business in our local area, and the Taco Bell Corporation is recognized worldwide for their generosity and philanthropic giving, especially to our youth," read the statement. "As an employer, I truly don’t believe the horrible actions of a few adolescent employees should tarnish the entire corporation as long as those issues are addressed locally and swiftly. I also recognize the constant exposure our youth are exposed to from celebrities, pro athletes and the like, that promote anti-police behavior. This sentiment is overwhelming and very concerning to anyone in the law enforcement profession.

"I pray that these young employees can learn from this terrible incident. I hope these young folks can learn from this and gain an understanding of the reason for the scrutiny and public outcry. Lastly, I am thankful for all of the support we have received from the Pineville community. The men and women of the Pineville Police Department will continue to provide the best police service available; even to those that don’t share in that support."

The Johnny Carino incident happened sometime on Saturday when staff allegedly refused to serve two officers from an unidentified department who already were seated at a table, according to another post made by Jeff Sanders.

Sander's post came from another by an officer identified as Brandon Waggoner, who said he and the other officer were never given a reason for not being served.

"They just would not come to our table," reads the post. "Instead several of the wait staff just bunched up and were snickering until we finally realized we were not going to be served."

Sanders' post said Waggoner spoke to the hostess as they left about his suspicion that they weren't being served because they were police officers. The woman confirmed that, he claims, and he also says four other people who overheard the conversation left the restaurant at the same time they did.

Waggoner said that he was furious, but felt sorry for the hostess.

Carino's posted an apology on their Facebook page later on Saturday, calling it "an unfortunate misunderstanding."

The statement says the officers were not in uniform, and that they were not greeted "in an acceptable amount of time.

"This was our fault and not our standard of service. Unfortunately, the officers chose to leave without notifying a manager,' it continues. "Since this time, our manager has spoken with one of the officers, apologized for the lapse of service and invited them back. The recent implications that Johnny Carino's refuses service to police officers are completely untrue. Not only do we happily accept ALL police and law enforcement officers, we have always offered a discount to such guests. We are deeply sorry for the miscommunication, and the resulting implications, but it is important to all of us at Johnny Carino's that the communities we serve know where we stand. Thank you."

It did little to ease the anger of some who posted that the statement was just an excuse.

"This is not an apology to these officers," wrote one woman. "This is a way of your pacifying the community without reprimanding your employees that stood there snickering in the corner while looking at these police officers without attempting to take their orders. It is because if people like you that the violence continues."

Another local restaurant reached out to the law enforcement community on Saturday in the wake of the posts. BJ's Pizza's locations in Pineville and Ball offered a free buffet to any officer in uniform on Saturday afternoon.

"We are horrified by the treatment of some local establishments towards those who protect & serve our community," it reads.



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