NC sheriff's deputies decry taunting at restaurant weeks after fatal shooting of man with illness

© Cleveland County Sheriff's Office
Members of a North Carolina sheriff's office are making a stink out of alleged name-calling directed at its deputies by staff at a local chain restaurant. This comes three weeks after another deputy killed an unarmed young man suffering from depression.

A captain with the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office took to Facebook on Monday to detail treatment of two sheriff's deputies at a Zaxby's chain restaurant in Shelby, North Carolina, on Sunday, July 10. Captain Joel Shores said the uniformed deputies were allegedly taunted by Zaxby's cooks, then given food that "wasn't even fit to eat."

"He and another deputy stopped at Zaxby's in Shelby (one of our FORMER favorite places to eat) for lunch," Shores wrote on behalf of one of the wives of the deputies, according to reports.

"Since they were on duty, they both had their uniforms on. As they walked up to place their orders, the boys in the back cooking the food started yelling at them and calling them names. Being the professional deputies that they are, neither of them replied to the rude comments or acknowledged it. Then, as they sat down to eat their food, my husband realized that the boys had put the hottest sauce possible on my his wings — to the point where his food wasn't even fit to eat."

Neal Glezen, owner of the restaurant, said footage from in-store camera will be analyzed and employee interviews will occur so that that the restaurant can get to the bottom of what happened.

"This is something we take very seriously. We're very big supporters of the community and law enforcement and all first responders," Glezen said, according to the Shelby Star. "We have our own investigation going right now. We want to find out exactly what happened and what was said ... what actually occurred."

Glezen was very apologetic about the incident, promising a "thorough investigation" of what happened.

"We've also spoken with the officers and will continue to do that, to get what they saw and what they heard. We'll take that as part of our investigation into what happened," he said. "We want to move as quickly as we can, but we also want to make sure we do a thorough investigation."

Shores posted another message on his Facebook wall telling his followers that the sheriff's office had contacted the restaurant's owners about the incident.

"We have made contact with the appropriate folks at Zaxbys. They have told us it will be fully investigated and are extremely sorry that this occurred. They were very apologetic. We are not going to judge an entire franchise based on a couple employees. That is what is happening to us in Law Enforcment and we are above that! Zaxbys can not be judged on a few bad apples. Just pray for our nation."

On Shores' Facebook wall, police supporters from around the country expressed their sadness over the incident while many called for the firing of the alleged taunting cooks.

'We called for help … my son was shot'

Meanwhile, three weeks ago, a Cleveland County Sheriff's Office deputy, Scott Trammel, fatally shot Pedro Cruz-Amado, 24, in Lawndale, North Carolina. 

Cruz-Amado's family had called 911 asking for help with the young man, who suffers from depression, the family said. Cruz-Amado was threatening to harm himself and telling his mother "bye," but he said he did not want a police presence.

“Pedro had been battling depression, and he asked his mother to call someone. His sister called 911,” Cruz-Amado’s stepfather, Daryl Carpenter said, according to the Gaston Gazette.

Carpenter told WCNC: "He said,'Mama, I'm ready to go. Bye, I love you,' and the next thing you know, he said, 'You may need to call, I need something. I need some help.'"

Trammel, a five-year veteran of the department, arrived to find Cruz-Amato on the front porch of the family residence, according to the sheriff's office. As Trammel approached the porch, Cruz-Amado threw a metal patio chair at the deputy. As Trammel retreated, Cruz-Amato picked up another chair and allegedly moved toward the deputy, according to the sheriff's office, eventually hitting Trammel in the head with the chair. Trammel, just a few feet away from Cruz-Amato, then fired his gun three times at the young man, leaving him dead on the family's front lawn.

"It's hard," Carpenter said, according to WCNC. "I lost my son in my front yard from a call that was meant to be helpful, not hurtful." 

The family said Cruz-Amado did not have another weapon. The sheriff's office has not indicated the young man was armed with any other object. 

“We remodeled this house. He was a good boy … I’m not sure why (Trammel) shot (Cruz-Amado). He had time to switch weapons,” Carpenter told the Gaston Gazette. “I know that (law enforcement) is hard work. We called for help, though, and my son was shot.”

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman — who has called for mandatory knowledge of the English language in order to access a US driver's license — said all Cleveland County deputies are armed with Tasers as well as a gun.

“A preliminary review shows that Deputy Trammel did not violate any policies or procedures," Norman said following the incident, according to the Gaston Gazette. "It is sad that an individual had to lose a life. I would ask the public to keep Deputy Trammel and his family along with the family of Mr. Cruz-Amado in their thoughts and prayers.”

Norman would not comment to the Gaston Gazette regarding what protocol is for sheriff's office deputies when they encounter someone with mental illness or suffering a mental crisis.

Cleveland County deputies are not equipped with body cameras, the Gaston Gazette reported, nor was their dash footage of the shooting. Trammel is on administrative paid leave.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is conducting an independent investigation of the shooting. SBI representatives said the investigation should take several months, the Gaston Gazette reported.