Black Actresses Claim They Were Arrested for Taking Too Long to Use a Restaurant Bathroom

Three black actresses claim they were arrested at a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, for allegedly taking too long in the restroom. 

Erica Walker, Brittany Marie Lucio and Asia’h Sharrell Epperson asked to use the restroom at Houston's Restaurant in Atlanta on May 13. According to a police report obtained by Newsweek, an off-duty Atlanta Police Department officer who also worked at Houston's was asked by the shift manager to remove the women from the bathroom because it was after 10 p.m. and they had been asked to leave twice.

The officer stated that he found the three women using their cell phones when he walked into the restroom. When he asked the women to leave, they ignored him and laughed when asked to leave by the officer a second time. After asking a third time, the officer grabbed Lucio’s wrist and asked the shift manager to open the back door. Lucio asked the officer to “let go” and slipped away from the officer’s grip before saying, “Get your hands off of me.”

When the officer grabbed Lucio’s wrist again, she screamed at the officer to “get your f**cking hands off me! You ain’t about to touch me.”

According to the report, Lucio punched the officer in the mouth and head, which is when he called 911 for backup. The officer restrained Lucio and Walker, and Epperson, an actress on Greenleaf and an American Idol finalist, began recording the incident on her cell phone.

The actresses have accused the officer, who has not been identified, of using excessive force. In a statement to Newsweek, the Atlanta Police Department said it is investigating the incident.

“The Atlanta Police Department is aware of the excessive force accusations made by the arrestees and the Office of Professional Standards has opened an investigation into [the] entire incident for appropriate action and whether proper procedures were followed,” the statement read.

“The Atlanta Police Department takes accusations of excessive force very seriously and will be reviewing all aspects of this incident to determine what occurred and whether the officer’s actions were appropriate,” the Police Department continued. 

Attorney Gerald A. Griggs, who is representing the women, told Newsweek that the three had friends inside the restaurant and had been told by the hostess that the kitchen was closed. When the women asked if they could use the restroom, the hostess said yes. The women, he said, used the bathroom for about 7 to 10 minutes and were using their cell phones to order a Lyft to leave the restaurant. 

Photos of the women posted to Griggs’s Instagram show the bruises the women obtained after the incident.

“They should have never been detained,” Griggs said. "They were not inside the restaurant for a long time and were in the process of leaving when an off-duty police officer but his hands on Lucio.”

In a statement to WXIA-TV, Houston’s Restaurant defended its managers and the off-duty police officer.

“The evidence we have seen thus far shows that three women arrived approximately 30 minutes after closing time, they went into the restroom as a group after being told that the restaurant was closed. The three stayed in the restroom for more than 10 minutes, and refused to leave despite repeated requests from several managers to do so,” the statement read. “Eventually, an off-duty Atlanta Police Officer was summoned with whom one or more of the women got into an altercation that led to arrests. Based on our current understanding, we believe our managers responded appropriately to this unfortunate situation."

Newsweek has reached out to Houston’s Restaurant for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

The women were charged with criminal trespass and Lucio was also charged with felony obstruction. They were booked into the Fulton County Jail and are seeking to have the charges dropped. 

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