A uniformed officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency was asked to leave an Outback Steakhouse on Friday night because he was carrying his sidearm.
The manager of the restaurant reportedly came up to Officer Andrew Ward and his wife Amanda at the Cleveland, Tennessee restaurant, where they were dinning during his dinner break, and asked him to put his gun in his truck.
Ward recounted in a Facebook post (which has been shared over 200,000 times) that the manager explained that the restaurant has a gun-free policy.
Ward responded telling her that he could not put his firearm in his truck because it is part of his uniform.
Management then asked Ward to leave the premises, which he and his wife did.
In his Facebook post, Ward wrote, “What is this country coming to? A uniformed Law Enforcement Officer who is sworn to protect and serve the public, is refused service because they have a firearm! I am disgusted and have no other words!!!”
The officer revealed that restaurant management later contacted him and apologized for the incident.
“There was another customer that was ‘scared for her life’ who was seated across from us,” Ward was told. “This customer also stated that she was afraid because ‘police are shooting people’ and this customer went on to demand to be escorted to her vehicle out of fear of being shot.”
The Director of Media and Community Relations for Bloomin’ Brands, Outback’s parent company, sent WTVC-TV a statement explaining the manager made a mistake in asking Ward to leave.
“We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their side arms inside our restaurants,” the statement read. “A manager made a mistake and we have discussed this with her. We have contacted the guest personally and apologized.”
WTVC-TV reported that Outback gave Ward and his wife a $100 gift card, which can be used at the Cleveland location or other affiliated restaurants owned by Bloomin’ Brands, including Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill.
Ward wrote in a follow-up Facebook post Friday night that he holds no animus toward Outback and has accepted the restaurant chain’s apology.
“Outback has called and apologized to me and my family and we have truly accepted this apology,” he wrote. “There was a mistake made and that’s it… we all make mistakes and and must move forward with our lives.”
“If we move forward and learn from our past mistakes, they are no longer mistakes but Lessons!” the officer continued. “I am not nor will I ever be a perfect man…. there was only one perfect man ever to walk this earth and He died some 2000 years ago to forgive my sins. Thank you all so very much for the support.”
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