An off-duty Atlanta police officer hits a woman during an early Saturday altercation that was captured on video and posted on YouTube.
The four women who were part of a scuffle with an off-duty Atlanta police officer had barely sat down at a table at the Buckhead IHOP when the confrontation started, one of them said.
"It was just four girls, just a regular night out, going to get something to eat," Cynthia Freeman said.
Freeman said she noticed two guys dressed as characters from the Star Wars trilogy.
"Wow, they got the helmet ... they've got everything, what are you guys doing?" Freeman said she asked early that morning.
Minutes later, she said a man in a blue shirt came over to their table.
"He tells me, shut up, be quiet, you need to leave," an emotional Freeman said.
The incident was captured on video
, the Atlanta Police Department confirmed. The video also shows the officer punching another woman, Ashley Leavell. Freeman said she had never met Leavell before the incident and added that she had been dining at another table.
"She was trying to get the officer to back off," Freeman said.
Freeman was among four arrested in the 4 a.m. Saturday incident, according to Atlanta attorney Bobby Aniekwu. He told the AJC he is representing three of the women in what he considers a case of "excessive force."
Cynthia Freeman is one of Aniekwu's clients. He said she is charged with obstruction of justice, criminal trespass and simple battery.
Leavell was charged with obstruction, public drunkeness and simple battery.
Freeman spoke to the AJC Wednesday at Aniekwu's office in downtown Atlanta. She said she did not realize the man who approached her table was a police officer.
"When we walked in, I didn't pay anybody no attention. I just sat down," she said.
"I looked at his face, I didn't look at what he had on or anything because everything happened so fast," Freeman said. "I didn't know what he was until he pulled out those cuffs." Freeman said the officer pulled on her hair to the point that some of it came out.
Her friend, Roberta Caban, said the officer never identified himself before the incident.
It is not yet known if the women will sue.
Aniekwu said he has to review a copy of the police report, which he hasn't yet received.
"As I sit here today, there's a great likelihood we will start some litigation," he said.
What started the melee is unclear. Freeman said she and her friends were seated at the first table near the front door of the IHOP. She was speaking to her friends about two nearby restaurant patrons who were dressed like characters -- Boba Fett and a Storm Trooper -- from the Star Wars films before the off-duty APD officer approached.
"He just attacked me," Freeman said, "And I said, 'What did I do? What did I do? I didn't do anything."
"I'm sitting with my friends, and I'm talking to the Darth Vadar guys, just on a casual conversation ... and then he just out of nowhere came to me, out of all of the people, came to me," she said later.
"I didn't touch this man, never, not once," she said. "I didn't pay him any attention what he had on. I was just looking at his face because he was yelling."
According to several videos posted on YouTube.com, the officer, whose name police have not provided, shouted at a woman sitting in the corner of a booth near the door and then he lunged at her. A woman wearing a black dress appeared to be trying to separate the officer and her friend when the officer slapped her. The woman in the black dress hit him back, and he punched her in the face.
A second officer came up just as the struggle began. He got involved when it became physical between the first cop and the woman in the black dress, apparently trying to separate them. The first officer pulled the woman away from the table, threw her onto the floor and laid on top of her while trying to get handcuffs on one wrist. The second wrist was cuffed when she turned over on her stomach.
Within moments, a female officer appeared to hold back the crowd while the woman in the black dress, shoeless, was led out of the restaurant.
The officer involved in the incident has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation, an Atlanta police spokesman said.
"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."
Caban said the officer went overboard.
"I felt so bad for her, for anybody to go through that," Caban told Channel 2 Action News.
"No one would tell us why we were arrested, no one would tell us anything," she added. "And we wind up spending over 24 hours in jail."