‘We got a riot going on’: Waffle House 911 calls capture chaos before NC choking arrest

"We need the police officer at Waffle House, uh, we got a riot going on, and I mean quick."

That's part of one of two 911 calls released by Duplin County Emergency Services that offer more information about why Waffle House employees say they called police to the Warsaw, North Carolina restaurant May 5.

Those calls led to the arrest of Anthony Wall, a 22-year-old black man from Fayetteville and the officer who arrested him being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

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In the now-viral arrest video Wall posted on his Facebook page, Wall, wearing a tuxedo, was choked and slammed to the ground by Warsaw police officer Frank Moss at the restaurant where he took his 16-year-old sister after escorting her to her prom. The video does not show what led to Wall holding his hands up before Moss puts his hand around Wall's neck.

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Wall was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

In the first call on Friday, May 4 at 11:29 p.m.:

911 operator: "Hello?

Caller: "Uh, yes ma'am, we have an issue at the Warsaw Waffle House. There is a customer, um, starting a fight in the middle of the restaurant."

911: "OK, are these the customers?"

Caller: "Yes ma'am."

The 911 operator then asks the caller to hold on.

Loud background noise is heard throughout the call, including yelling, then:

Caller: "Please don't let him go."

There is more noise, then the caller asks the 911 operator: "Do you have the law on the way?"

911: "Yes ma'am."

The caller identifies herself as an employee of the Waffle House.

Wall told The News & Observer that he and his sister argued with Waffle House employees and the police were called.

The argument began when a Waffle House employee cursed at people in his group after they sat at a table that had not been cleaned yet, he said. Then, Wall said, a waitress called the police.

Wall's lawyers said an employee made homophobic comments to Wall.

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About two minutes after the first 911 call, a second one was made by a different Waffle House employee:

Caller: "I'm calling the police . . . We need the police officer at Waffle House, uh, we got a riot going on, and I mean quick."

911: "Yeah, we got them en route."

Caller: "Please get 'em here quick, because there's a bunch of them fighting."

911: "Yes, we got them on the way. Approximately how many fighting?"

Caller: "There's probably 20 fighting."

In a statement referring to the incident in Warsaw and a previous incident in Alabama, where Chikesia Clemons was violently thrown to the ground by police officers in April, Waffle House defended the decision of its employees to call the police.

"Our review of these incidents do not indicate race was an issue in the decision to call the police in either case," said Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner.

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Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice King, CEO of The King Center, reacted to the News & Observer report of Wall's arrest by calling for people to avoid Waffle House until it commits to employee training and other changes.

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In a tweet on May 10, King wrote: "Family, let's stay out of Waffle House until the corporate office legitimately and seriously commits to 1. discussion on racism, 2. employee training and 3. other plans to change; and until they start to implement changes."

Warsaw Mayor A.J. Connors said Wall started a fight and he needed to be arrested, but said it was not a racially-motivated incident.

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". . .we must understand that this young man had broke the law. He was there, he started a fight," Connors said in a video statement posted to Facebook on May 11. "An officer’s job is to make an arrest if they see fit or there’s a reason to. This officer did what he had to do to make sure.

"Now I want the public to understand that this is not a racially-motivated issue. This was just a young man who had broken the law, and a law enforcement officer arrested him. And unfortunately physical contact took place because he refused to cooperate or follow the — or obey the law. "

The Warsaw Police Department has received calls and social media messages, some of which were threats against Moss, said Glenn Barfield, Moss' lawyer.

On Thursday, May 17, Warsaw Town Manager Scotty Summerlin told The News & Observer that Moss had been placed on administrative leave.

Wall's lawyers and the NAACP Legal Defense fund are seeking the release of audio and video from the night of Wall's arrest, including police body camera footage, dashcam and surveillance video.

The Warsaw Police Department, District Attorney Ernie Lee, the State Bureau of Investigation, FBI and the N.C. Department of Justice's Law Enforcement Training and Standards Commission are investigating the incident.

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