Deriance Ra’Shaiel Hughes, 29, was charged with felony aggravated assault for the incident that stemmed from an altercation between the woman and employees inside the fast-food location.
A lawyer representing the victim, Debra Staggs, 55, said she was trying to get a refund after reportedly being double-charged for food, reports local TV station WSMV.
Things quickly escalated, however, as Staggs and Hughes got into an argument at the cashier counter. In a video posted on Twitter, Hughes is seen slamming Staggs to the ground outside.
There are conflicting accounts about what transpired before the violent attack. In another video that captured the argument inside the restaurant, employees accused Staggs of using the N-word and asked her repeatedly to leave.
Deriance Ra’Shaiel Hughes, 29, was charged with felony aggravated assault, authorities say. (Columbia, Tenn., Police Department)
Staggs’ lawyers said their client denies using the racial slur and that the store’s manager “immediately began insulting her” when she returned to request a refund after checking her bank statement.
Staggs was “confused and frightened” during the altercation, her lawyer said, and tried to leave the building before she was attacked. She reportedly suffered six cracked ribs, nine fractures and a broken knee.
Popeyes Lousiana Kitchen sing or logo outside a restaurant wall. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Jeff Janssen, a Popeyes employee, told WSMV that Hughes was fired after the incident. “It was uncalled for. Wasn’t no reason for that,” he said.
A Popeyes spokesperson said in a statement to a Fox affiliate that the company was “shocked” over the attack.
“These actions run completely contrary to our standards and the integrity of our brand. Following an investigation, the franchisee took immediate action and we were informed that the employee has since been terminated,” the spokesperson said.
“The entire circumstance is highly unfortunate for all involved, and we hope to never see this type of behavior again.”
The altercation in Tennessee comes after a string of violent incidents at other Popeyes restaurants around the country, some of which have been tied to the fast-food restaurant’s popular chicken sandwich.
Trays were sent flying at a Popeyes restaurant in San Antonio on Tuesday during a fight between a customer and an employee. The two unidentified women were seen throwing food trays at each other in a dispute caught on video and posted on Twitter.
In a separate altercation caught on camera in Maryland, a Popeyes employee and male customer were seen brawling behind the counter as customers and other employees look on. Investigators confirmed that the incident was sparked by a confrontation between a customer and an employee after the customer demanded a refund.
In another incident on Sunday, a man was stabbed to death outside a different Maryland Popeyes. The stabbing occurred after two customers reportedly got into an altercation over one of the men cutting a line reserved for the restaurant’s popular chicken sandwich.