CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. — Black Lives Matter activists are demanding that Prince George's County leaders more strictly regulate armed private security officers after an incident Saturday that sparked protests.
Twenty-four-year-old Uber Eats driver Stephanie Samuels claims a security guard wearing and vest and gun, abused his power by using pepper spray and handcuffs on her at a Popeyes restaurant at the Ritchie Station Marketplace in Capitol Heights Saturday.
BELOW: The Verify team answers: "Can security guards in Maryland make arrests?"
Protestors supporting Samuels said private security guards too often act like police and target Black people more often than white individuals.
"There should be no armed security on these premises and they should not be allowed to carry guns period,” Qiana Johnson, who speaks for Black Lives Matter in Prince George's County, said.
Johnson said the Popeyes incident caught on video shows that private armed security guards use disproportionate force against Black people too freely. Protestors are also calling on Popeyes and other restaurant and retail chains to eliminate armed security, Johnson said.
According to court documents in the case, the security guard was identified as Darryl Poston. He is accusing Samuels of assaulting him after he ordered her to use the proper exit door to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, according to his written court complaint.
Poston accused Samuels of throwing a drink on him and punching him in the face causing bruising. Samuels said she threw the drink after being choked by Poston, according to her written complaint accusing him of second-degree assault.
Police in Prince George's County are not investigating the case, according to the department's spokesperson.
In a statement, Popeyes Restaurants described Poston as an “off duty police officer."
According to a spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security, Poston is an employee of a Las Vegas-based contractor that does security work for the Federal Protective Service. DHS would not comment on whether or not Poston has any police powers as part of that job.
Maryland State Police said Poston is a licensed private detective and security guard in Maryland. State law prevents MSP from revealing if Poston has a permit to carry a gun on his security jobs.
Black Lives Matter said arming guards in restaurants is a threat to the Black community.
“The property that was being protected on the day that Stephanie was brutally attacked was chicken," Johnson said. "And we have a problem with the fact that chicken has a higher sense of value than a Black woman in Prince George's County.”
A Popeyes statement said the company is concerned about the actions of the guard.
"We have no tolerance for violence in our restaurants and will always act swiftly to deal with it," the Popeyes statement said. "We have reviewed the available facts with our franchisee and are very concerned by the apparent aggressive actions of the off-duty police officer involved. We will fully cooperate with the local police department and expect that action will need to be taken."
In a text exchange with WUSA9 Poston said his written complaint "says it all."
We asked the Verify team to find out if security guards in Maryland can legally make arrests.
ANSWER: YES — it is legal for a security guard to make an arrest in Maryland, but only under very specific circumstances.
SOURCES: The Maryland State Police and the Maryland State Bar Association.
The Maryland State Police referred to a 1970 Appeals Court ruling which allows a citizen to make an arrest under specific circumstances. If the citizen witnesses a felony, or is in the presence of someone who they consider to be a danger to the public, that person can make a citizen's arrest.
The Maryland State Bar Association's website lists the same circumstances. They caution, though, that if you make a citizen's arrest and the person is not convicted of a crime, you could be sued for unlawful arrest.