CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A uniformed officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency says he was asked to leave a Cleveland restaurant because he was carrying his service weapon.
In a public post on Facebook, TWRA officer Andrew Ward said he was asked by a manager at the Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland to remove his weapon.
Ward says he explained that he had to have it on his person because he was in uniform, but the manager explained that the restaurant was a "gun-free zone."
Ward says that Outback has apologized for the incident. The Director of Media and Community Relations for Bloomin Brands, Outback's parent company, sent us this statement:
"We’ve always allowed uniformed law enforcement officers to carry their side arms inside our restaurants. A manager made a mistake and we have discussed this with her. We have contacted the guest personally and apologized."
On Saturday afternoon, Ward shared the following statement with NewsChannel 9 through text message: "I have spoken with the manger involved, the regional manager and the Vice President of operations for Outback today. They have apologized profusely and I have accepted their apology and the issue in my opinion has been concluded. "
He says that another customer seated across from him was “scared for her life” and afraid because “police are shooting people.”
Ward posted to his Facebook page that the manager at Outback apologized and will be sending him a $100 gift card.
We reached out to Tracy Thompson, a manager at the restaurant.
She tells us that Outback serves officer with or without weapons, and that the incident was a mistake.
Later in the weekend, Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson shared this statement about the incident:
“I was very saddened to hear the reports of a law-enforcement officer who was asked to leave a restaurant in this community. While I truly respect the restaurant for reaching out to the officer, our community must also show support to the men and women who place the badge on their chests every single day in order to protect the establishment in which the officer was asked to leave.”
Depend on us to bring you updates to this story online and on-air as they are made available.