When law-abiding officer Andrew Ward, proudly serving with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), anticipated a relaxing dinner with his wife Amanda at Outback Steakhouse, he didn’t envision the bias they were about to encounter. The shock of being ejected from the restaurant was just the beginning; the reason for their forced departure brought an appalling reality to the surface that prompted significant backlash.
While donning his uniform, Officer Ward opted to take Amanda for a comforting meal at Outback Steakhouse. The unexpected hostility they received at the restaurant was a reminder of the misguided fear and paranoia that seems to be spreading like wildfire in certain segments of society.
Just like many of his fellow officers, Ward, while taking a well-deserved break at the restaurant, was required to have his service weapon on him as per duty guidelines. According to Local 3 News, the sight of Ward’s service weapon stirred unnecessary panic, leading to an unfortunate series of events. The restaurant manager insisted that Ward remove his firearm and store it in his vehicle, ignoring the fact that he was in uniform and on duty.
After a brief phone conversation, the manager returned to ask Ward and his wife to leave the establishment, declaring Outback Steakhouses to be “gun-free zones.” The incident left Ward understandably frustrated. His subsequent Facebook post highlighted the absurdity of the situation, with a uniformed officer of the law, sworn to protect and serve, being refused service due to carrying a firearm.
The subsequent revelation of the cause of this unfortunate incident added insult to injury. A fellow patron had expressed her fear, citing concerns about police shootings and stating that she felt threatened. Ward countered this by questioning what was threatening about his peaceful, jovial conduct while dining.
Outback Steakhouse reached out to apologize and offered a $100 gift card, which proved insufficient in light of the outrage the incident sparked in the community. Officer Ward’s posts narrating his experience were shared over 150,000 times, causing significant backlash.
In response to the incident’s public outcry, Outback released a statement claiming that uniformed law enforcement officers carrying sidearms have always been allowed in their restaurants, attributing the misstep to a manager’s error. Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson issued a statement expressing his disappointment and emphasized the importance of community support for the law enforcement officers who protect them daily.
Although the community rallied around Officer Ward, he was eager to put the incident behind him and move forward. His final Facebook post was a reflection of this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of learning from past mistakes.
This incident serves as a stark reminder of how misinformation and fear can lead to unfair treatment of law enforcement officers. Officer Ward’s experience underscores the importance of supporting and respecting those who dedicate their lives to upholding the law, particularly in these challenging times. His story isn’t one of resentment, but of education and a call to reassess societal biases.
WATCH the video below for more details: