WASHINGTON, D.C. - A manager at the Tenleytown Chick-fil-A, shown in a violent fight with a customer that went viral on Twitter this week, is speaking out to DCW50 about the incident.
"What that video showed is really just me defending myself, but I really wish it did go a whole different direction," says Rudolph Smith, a former manager who has since been fired for the incident.
Smith says a friend of the man featured in the video was the first to disrupt customers on Tuesday night.
He says the man started yelling at a group of customers about his phone.
Smith was asked by one of his co-workers to intervene and he says he politely asked him to leave.
At that point, Smith says the man featured in the video also came in, without a shirt on, and began yelling at customers, then at him.
"He said, 'now which one of you kids said y’all was going to cut me,'" says Smith. "He pointed at me, he stepped up to my face, and said, 'I'm going to beat you down after I finish beating the police.'"
Smith says he stepped back to his office and when he came back, the men had left.
Minutes later though, the man featured in the video came back. Smith says he tried to come back behind the counter.
"That's a big no-no for us, we don't need no guests coming behind the counter," Smith says. "I’m pushing him, I’m like you can’t be here now. you really have to go. I see a baby right there beside him, so as I pushed him more to the side out of the baby’s way, that’s when he swung on me."
The video that went viral on social media doesn't show that interaction.
However, a video taken by another witness, an American University freshman, Shea O'Leary, shows those few seconds before the brawl.
"I’ve never seen anything like that happen in person at all," says O'Leary. "He was put in a position where he pretty much had only option, when the guy was trying to come behind the counter and after he throws a punch at you, you understand where he’s coming from in that position."
A D.C. Police report of the incident states that officers arrested the customer for simple assault, not Smith.
It states that the customer was shouting at other customers and came behind the employee's counter, Smith asked him to leave, then the customer subsequently threw a punch and the two began to fight.
"There’s probably 100 ways it could’ve went besides violence," Smith says.
He told DCW50 he's sorry for any pain he caused the customer.
He believes the in-store surveillance video shows everything leading up to the fight, including many peaceful attempts to get the man to leave, but they were not able to access the surveillance video Tuesday night.
"Chick-fil-A is a great organization and they take care of us real well," says Smith. "I took real pride in working with them, if they do have an opportunity of me coming back I will definitely take it."
In a statement to DCW50, Chick-fil-A says:
"There is a viral video circulating of an altercation that took place Sept. 4 between a restaurant team member and an individual in a franchised restaurant outside of Washington, DC. This video is incredibly disturbing to watch, and we do not condone violence or the team member’s response to the situation in any way. Our franchise restaurant Operators and their team members strive to create a safe and welcoming environment and to treat all guests with dignity and respect. This situation does not live up to our brand's commitment to hospitality, and for that, we are very sorry."
"According to the franchise Operator, the team member involved in the altercation is no longer working in the restaurant. We are continuing to investigate this situation, including what happened before the video was taken and how it escalated so quickly."