Expert: Officer Followed Protocol In IHOP Fight

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ATLANTA,None - Channel 2 Action News has obtained a police report detailing the scuffle between an Atlanta police officer and a customer at an IHOP restaurant on Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

The fight was captured on video and posted online. It shows about a dozen people inside the restaurant watching from a short distance.

According to the police report, Officer J. Vidal was working a detail at the IHOP when he asked a woman sitting at a booth, identified in the report as Cynthia Freeman, "not to talk so loud."

Freeman responded, "I am a criminal justice major" and told the officer "she knows the law," according to the police report. The report also stated that Freeman said the restaurant is "a public place and she knows her first amendment right."

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When the officer told Freeman that IHOP was in fact private property and that she would be asked to leave if she continued yelling, Freeman said "she wasn't going anywhere," the report stated.

The exchange of words ended with a scuffle inside the restaurant during the early morning of April 23, police said.

Channel 2's Ryan Young received a tip about what occurred and continued to press Atlanta police for details about the incident.

Three days later, police confirmed the incident and sent Young a statement late Tuesday evening that read, "The Atlanta Police Department is aware of the incident that took place early Saturday morning involving one of its officers attempting to arrest a patron at an IHOP in Buckhead. The matter has been referred to our Office of Professional Standards to determine whether department policies and procedures were followed. Further comment at this time would not be appropriate."

In the video, an officer is seen punching a woman in the face after she struck him. According to the police report, the woman in the video resisted arrest. The officer called for back up, the report stated.

Young sought an outside expert opinion about the video. Attorney William McKenny is a former police officer and prosecutor, who now represents and sometimes sues police officers.

"He already notified her she is under arrest. She's resisting. He's doing everything he can," McKenny said.

Young interviewed one of the women seen in the video. She said a group of friends went to the IHOP to get coffee and that a man asked them to be quiet. The woman said the man never identified himself as an officer.

She said the scuffle escalated when one of her associates told the officer that he was being recorded.

"He attacked her ... he literally attacked her," the woman said. The woman told Young she spent more than 24 hours in jail.

Young asked McKenny, "Is there anything he could have done differently or is he following protocol all the way through?"

"They teach you at the police academy, and I've been through two police academies, what's called an open-hand slap. And that is to shock and also push that person away," said McKenny.

Bobby Aniekwu, an attorney for one of the women, said he disputed details in the incident report.

"I believe the video speaks for itself," said Aniekwu.

Police said the officer involved in the scuffle has been reassigned.

"The officer involved in the arrest and confrontation with a patron at the IHOP in Buckhead has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the department's Office of Professional Standards. Use of force by police officers is a matter the department takes seriously, and the OPS investigation will determine if the officer acted within established guidelines. Chief Turner has pledged to have the OPS investigation concluded in 10 business days," Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos wrote.