Cops detained wrong couple in Applebee’s for hit-and-run while actual suspects hid in bathroom: court docs
Court documents offered few new details explaining how Wisconsin police investigating a hit-and-run ended up arresting the wrong couple at an Applebee’s while the actual suspects hid in the bathroom.
Kenosha Police, who were looking for suspects who fled the scene of a serious car crash on July 20, were told by witnesses that a Black man and a woman with a baby had taken off from the scene toward a nearby Kohl’s or Menards, a regional home improvement store, according to criminal complaints obtained by The Kenosha News.
Around 11:11 p.m., staff at an Applebee’s called police dispatch, alerting cops that a group who matched the perps’ descriptions had entered the restaurant and seemed on edge.
Arriving at the restaurant, police spotted a man and woman with a baby who broadly matched the description of the hit-and-run suspects, although the woman was wearing a white shirt instead of a red one, according to court records.
As police asked the couple about what car they drove, the pair declined to answer the question. The man attempted to exit and told police he was free to go, despite cops saying that he had been detained and couldn’t leave.
A police officer attempted to stop the man from leaving with a “modified escort” hold, but the man yanked his arm away, “which resulted in a struggle taking place inside the restaurant,” according to the complaints.
“[The man] continued to try to pull away and had to be decentralized to the ground. While [the man] was on the ground, he was ordered to put his hands behind his back and [an officer] delivered several strong side hand and forearm strikes in order [to] ensure compliance,” the complaints read.
Jennifer Harris, the manager working at Applebee’s the night of the arrest, told WISN 12 News that the man was trying to explain to police that he needed to change his son’s diaper.
“He tried to go the other way, they tackled him into a wall and the baby hit its head on the wall,” Harris said, adding that cops ripped the baby out of the man’s arms while he was on the ground.
In video of the encounter, one of the officers is seen pounding the man with punches and barking at him to “put his hand behind his back.”
“It’s just sad. I just felt bad for the baby, that it had to go through that traumatic event,” said Harris, who was fired by Applebee’s, with the eatery blaming its former manager for sharing the video online and with news outlets.
The woman, meanwhile, was separately fighting with an officer and resisting the police’s attempts to take her into custody, according to the complaints.
Police later discovered that the real suspects had been hiding in the restaurant’s bathroom and charged them, according to WISN 12 News.
The misidentified couple, of Zion, Illinois, were slapped with charges of disorderly conduct and resisting an officer, with the woman receiving an additional charge for marijuana possession, according to court records. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Illinois, but not in Wisconsin.
The pair were released on $500 signature bonds the day after their arrests.
On Wednesday, community activists held a protest outside the Kenosha Safety Building, slamming police for how they handled questioning the couple and demanding transparency with the department’s investigation into the officers’ actions.
“We really are disheartened by how the police officers chose to go to that family,” said Tanya McLean, executive director of Leaders of Kenosha.
“There was just a lack of de-escalation. Everything happened so quickly. It elevated so quickly. It just didn’t seem that anyone was a voice of reason that had a uniform on.”
Kenosha police told WISN 12 News that it had begun an internal “review” to determine whether the officers’ use of force was “more robust than what the state requires.”