As waffle restaurant defies closure, video shows Fresno officer's confrontation with angry customers

The Waffle Shop restaurant in Fresno has opened in defiance of closure orders and new video shows a confrontation between an officer and unruly customers.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Fresno Police release body camera footage of weekend incident at Waffle Shop
Fresno Chief of Police Andy Hall says the officer involved in an incident at the Waffle Shop on Sunday appeared to be acting lawfully.

FRESNO, Calif. -- Police have released body camera video of a confrontation between an officer and a crowd of patrons at a Fresno waffle restaurant that has been fighting with the city over closure orders.

The Waffle Shop has already been warned and then fined $1,000 for staying open in defiance of city and state closure orders meant to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

In the latest incident at the shop, on Sunday an officer pulled up to help city Code Enforcement at the restaurant. A small crowd had gathered in front of the doors, blocking the entrance. Most of them were not wearing masks and were standing less than six feet from each other.

The crowd clearly does not want the officer to enter the restaurant.

As the officer attempts to weave through the patrons, asking them to "make way," and not interfere with his job, several of them remain blocking his path. One woman is heard yelling "They don't have to let you in."

As he gets closer to the front entrance, a man and woman continue to stand in his way, not letting him enter the door. After a brief discussion and some jostling, the officer has the man put his hands behind his back and leads him out to the parking lot. The whole time, members of the crowd continue to yell and curse at the officer. The video ends as the man is brought back to the officer's vehicle.

Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall said the incident concerned him because he gave clear instructions to officers to not arrest anyone or take enforcement actions related to the shelter in place order.

He said he referred the officer's actions to Internal Affairs. But then he said after a full review of the incident, it appears the officer was acting lawfully and said the person who was detained was obstructing the officer. The man was released at that time without charges.

Hall said that by detaining the man, the officer was allowing city Code Enforcement to do their jobs at the restaurant.

The announcement came hours after Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld held a press conference to address the incident.

On Sunday morning, police officers were dispatched to assist Code Enforcement Officers from the City of Fresno Attorney's Office with issuing a citation to the restaurant's owner.

Bredefeld, along with store owner Ammar Ibrahim, called for Mayor Lee Brand and the city to end Fresno's shelter-in-place order after Sunday's incident.