A local official is requesting to meet with Tennessee police officers, after the Knox County Sheriff’s Office used its official Facebook page in November to complain a teenage girl refused to serve deputies at a deli because they were law enforcement officers.
On 21 November, three Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies entered a McAlister’s Deli in Knoxville to eat dinner.
The department claimed the cashier “refused to take the order of one of the Deputies,” and implied it was because they were police officers.
“This incident, unfortunate as it was, is an isolated incident here in our community,” sheriff Tom Spangler wrote on Facebook. “We have always been blessed by a supportive community that loves and appreciates our law enforcement and first responders.”
The deputies spoke with the manager at the restaurant, and a bystander reportedly called into the sheriff’s office to report what happened, and the teenager ultimately lost her job in the resulting controversy.
The 15-year-old’s mother, meanwhile, says her daughter didn’t refuse anyone service. She described her daughter as a hard working young woman, who sought a part-time job after Knoxville police killed her teenaged brother Anthony in 2021.
“Near the end of her shift, she faced a line of customers and still had other work to do before she could go home, so she asked her co-worker to help. She intended no offense. Our family has been traumatized by the loss of my son, Anthony. All she did was ask for help from a co-worker.” Chanada Robinson said in a statement.
“I am proud of my daughter for holding a job while going to high school, and I am proud of my daughter for asking for help when needed,” she added.
Knox County commissioner Dasha Lundy has asked the officers involved in the incident to meet with the commission next week.
"This is about grace and love. It’s all in love. This is about helping the next generation, helping the Black community and passing the torch. This is a child and we need to stand behind her," Ms Lundy, the commissioner’s only Black commissioner, wrote in a letter to the sheriff’s office, obtained by Knox News.
The Independent has contacted the sheriff’s office for comment.
In December, the teenager, Aniya Thompson, offered her version of events at a community meeting.
“I do not apologize for doing my job and handling a situation with decorum and professionalism which these officers did not do,” she told local commissioners. “Since then I have lost my first job and then was forced to watch my name and character be drug through the mud via social media because of Kimberly Glenn, a communications director for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, who failed to do her job accurately and has still yet to face the consequences of her actions.”
“If I was anything other than a brown girl would this have happened?” she asked. “Two, was I targeted because of who my brother is? And number three, where is the accountability for those who choose to spread misinformation about me when I was only doing my job? When will they be held accountable?”
In April of 2021, police shot and killed Anthony Thompson, Jr, 17, in a bathroom at Austin-East Magnet High School, during an attempted arrest on a domestic violence offence.
Police said the teen was concealing a gun in his hoodie which went off, prompting officer Jonathon Clabough to shoot and kill the youth. The Knox County District Attorney declined to press charges, declaring the shooting justified under the circumstances, WBIR reports.
The Thompson family filed a federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s department, arguing it was unclear they had probable cause to make the arrest in the first place, and that body camera footage shows officers inadvertently triggering Thompson’s gun, according to Knox News. The suit also accuses them of leaving the teen to bleed out on the ground for minutes without providing medical care.