Woman punched by police speaks out; incident started over missing cheese on Big Mac

An incident that led to a Butler Twp. police officer hitting a woman multiple times in the face that was caught on video Monday began as a dispute over missing cheese on a Big Mac.

That police officer was placed on administrative leave and the woman, charged with resisting arrest and three other charges, has sought the services of Attorney Michael Wright and the Dayton Unit of the NAACP.

The video, recorded and published by a bystander online after the incident, shows two officers arresting Latinka Hancock, 31 of Dayton and one was seen punching her. Police camera video shown at a Butler Twp. press conference Wednesday gave more details about the incident.

Butler Twp. officers Sgt. Todd Stanley and and Tim Zellers responded at 4:20 p.m. Monday to a call about a disorderly customer at the McDonald’s at 3411 York Commons Blvd., and on arrival, officers approached Hancock, according to a police report.

In body camera footage, Hancock explains the dispute with McDonald’s employees, stating she had entered the restaurant, after initially ordering food through the drive thru. Hancock said she paid for extra cheese and did not receive it.

“(One employee), who was very nice by the way, asked the (employee) in the burgundy shirt to remake my sandwich,” Hancock can be heard telling officers in the body cam footage, adding that this second employee then came to the desk to request that Hancock pay an additional fee for the extra cheese.

Hancock said she asked why there would be an additional cost as she had already paid for the extra cheese. Hancock said she didn’t get an answer and at that point asked for a refund, which she says she eventually received. Hancock said she was told the police had been called and to leave the store.

In their report, the officers said that Hancock was backing out of her parking spot at the McDonald’s when they arrived, but that they had been asked to trespass Hancock.

When asked for a driver’s license, Hancock said that she didn’t have one, and refused to provide her identification.

The exchange became more heated, when one of the officers decided to place Hancock under arrest.

According to the officers, Hancock resisted arrest, leading to one of the officers threatening to use a Taser on her, and then the other hitting Hancock on the right side of the face with an “open palm strike.”

Hancock was placed in handcuffs and put into the police cruiser.

According to the report, Hancock was bleeding from her mouth, and a medic was called who cleaned the wound and determined it was superficial.

After giving her identification, police said that Hancock didn’t have a valid driver’s license, and also that they found an open container of alcohol in the front seat of the vehicle Hancock was driving.

Hancock was charged with resisting arrest, failure to disclose personal information, driving under suspension and open container of alcohol in a vehicle, the report said.

During the Wednesday Butler Twp. press conference, Chief John Porter said Stanley, who was the officer seen striking Hancock, is on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation. Stanley has served on the Butler Twp. police force for more than 22 years. Zellers has not been placed on leave, Porter said. He has served the department for around 2 1/2 years.

Hancock, represented by attorney Michael Wright, of Wright and Shultze, and accompanied by Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Foward, also held a press event on Wednesday.

“I want to be clear that this incident should have never occurred in the first place. McDonald’s should be ashamed for resorting to calling the police over a disagreement over an order they got wrong,” Wright said. “If they can’t manage basic customer service, opting to potentially put a person’s life in jeopardy over a mishandled Big Mac, it doesn’t seem safe for Black people to and eat at McDonald’s anymore.”

A visibly shaking Hancock answered questions during the press conference, at times becoming emotional.

“I’m glad that I’m able to be here to be honest. I don’t want people to feel like I’m complaining over a piece of cheese,” she said. “I went in with good intentions. I came with everything; I brought back the sandwich, the fries and the receipt ... I want(ed) either the sandwich or my money back.”

Hancock said she witnessed an interaction between the manager of the store and the employee who had come to the cash register to request she pay the additional fee, during which the manager instructed the employee to remake the sandwich.

“So you went out of your way to not do what was asked, then you want me to leave?” Hancock said, adding that she did subsequently leave to “decompress” in the parking lot prior to police arrival.

“I made sure that I at least tried to show that my demeanor wasn’t threatening,” she said.

Foward said Wednesday that Hancock had secured his office’s services “from a civil and human rights standpoint.”

“(Officers) are taught they can use their fists, but they’re not taught to use their fists on a face ... so, policy was not followed in this particular case,” Foward said.

Porter said he expects the department’s internal investigation to be completed within about a week.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

When asked if Butler Twp. officers are educated on de-escalation tactics, Porter said they are and that the two officers involved did attempt to “calm her down and get her to understand everything.”

“Sometimes in certain instances, you cannot de-escalate, and I’m not talking about this incident, but in some cases, you can’t de-escalate and an arrest has to be made,” he said.

Porter said Stanley has no formal reprimands in his personnel file. He noted that Stanley had been placed on leave as a result of repeated correspondence from concerned residents.

“We’ve received a lot of hate mail and a lot of hate emails and phone calls calling for different things, so we felt it probably the most appropriate thing to do was to place him on leave in conjunction with some of his days off so we could complete this with as little distraction as possible,” Porter said.

Wright said his firm is waiting for additional videos inside McDonald’s and information from the police department before deciding on any potential lawsuits.

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