A Popeyes employee allegedly threw a 55-year-old woman onto the pavement outside the restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee, on Tuesday.
Viral video footage of the incident taken by a customer shows Debra Staggs standing at the restaurant’s counter as she reportedly disputes a charge on her bill.
As the situation escalates, an employee tells Staggs she will call the police and have them forcibly remove her from the building. The workers claimed she then used a racial slur.
“Hey, hey. You in the wrong place saying the n-word,” a voice says from behind the camera. Moments later, the video shows an employee with his arms around the victim’s waist as he carries her into the parking lot and slams her on the ground.
Friday, police arrested Deriance Hughes, 29, and he now faces charges of aggravated assault. He has since been fired from his job at the restaurant, according to a Fox News report.
“It was uncalled for. Wasn’t no reason for that,” restaurant employee Jeff Janssen commented in regard to the attack.
“If she said something she should not have said in retaliation and the heat of the moment we do not condone that and she regrets that, but it does not give someone the right to break somebody’s body almost in half,” said Staggs’ attorney, Rocky McElhaney.
The attorney said his client suffered nine fractures, six broken ribs, and a broken knee. She has since had two surgeries that will require months of rehabilitation.
Staggs said she ate at the restaurant Sunday, but when she realized she had been charged twice for her meal after looking at the receipt, she called the store and the manager told her to come back and get a refund.
However, “When she got there she was treated with hostility and anger from the manager. There were words back and forth,” her attorney said.
McElhaney also claimed his client was called “an ugly broke-down cracker” and stated that “She’s a mixture of sad and angry right now. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.”
A Popeyes spokesperson issued a statement recently about the event that read:
We were shocked to learn about what happened in Tennessee. These actions run completely contrary to our standards and the integrity of our brand. Following an investigation, the franchisee took immediate action and we were informed that the employee has since been terminated. The entire circumstance is highly unfortunate for all involved and we hope to never see this type of behavior again.
Detectives with the Columbia Police Department are currently investigating the incident and have asked anyone with more information to call the department at 931-560-1670.