A group of local students say a security guard pulled a weapon on them outside a Popeye’s restaurant in Capitol Heights, Maryland, after he refused to let them inside.
The security guard told the group the restaurant was closed, and they began questioning the guard after they saw other customers go in, according to the accounts of the young men and their parents.
Sixteen-year-old Azure Rivera was one of the seven young men in the group. He pulled out his phone and started recording as the interaction escalated.
Then the guard pulled his weapon from his holster — a Taser, the security company says — and sent the boys running, terrified by what they assumed was a gun.
The boys and young men in the group said they were racially profiled by the security guard.
When Rivera’s mother, Kimba Rivera, heard about the incident and watched the video, she was shocked. She immediately went into action, filing a complaint with Popeye’s and a police report.
She said she also spoke with a supervisor at the Tri State Protection Agency, the guard’s employer, who apologized to her and said they would put the security guard on disciplinary review.
Prince George's County Police are investigating the incident, but they said it appears the security guard was operating within the law and that Popeye’s is a private business with the right to close its doors if and when it chooses.
The teens and their parents, though, are confident the guard’s actions were motivated by racial bias and are speaking out.
The father of high school student Michael Wilson said his son is an honor student and people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
“To know they were looked at as potential thugs, or something other than what they were — it made me upset,” he said.
Kimba Rivera said she is still waiting to hear back from the restaurant and the security company, and she wants answers.
"They're being discriminatory against young kids who come in late at night," she said. “That is heartbreaking for me. I don’t want this to become the norm.”
Popeye's gave a statement to NBC News that called the "actions of the security guard as seen on the video are extremely concerning to us. The guard has been removed from the store, and the franchisee is investigating the matter."
NBC News reached out to the security officer and he had not responded at the time of publication.