Bizarre Mix-Up Involving Identically Named Women, Gmail Account Leads To TPD Detaining One. She Plans To Sue The City
A woman says she was wrongfully detained by Tallahassee Police officers over the weekend. The incident stemmed from a mix-up over an email account used to book a food order, which turned into a tense situation resulting in the woman being handcuffed before officers explained why.
Chanita Foster, a 24-year-old who does not live in Tallahassee and whose social media accounts say she is an alum of Florida A&M University, had just gotten into town when she went to Hobbit American Grill on West Pensacola Street Sunday night.
Foster placed what she says was a $21 order for chicken wings on the app ChowNow, using her own credit card. But, Foster reported entering a made up email address into the ChowNow app. For unknown reasons the app wouldn’t accept her actual email address.
According to a TPD report on the incident, officers were called to the scene after another woman, who lives in Atlanta but has the same name, alerted the restaurant, thinking someone was falsely using her ChowNow account. While Foster thought she was making up an email address using her name, it turns out that email address already belonged to the woman in Atlanta.
A Hobbit employee reportedly called the police when the woman from Atlanta, also named Chanita Foster, told the employee she received an email from the app saying someone had ordered food using her information.
TPD officers asked the Hobbit employee to let them know when the person who booked the order, which they assumed was a scammer, arrived to pick up the food.
Police say the woman in Atlanta “was unable to see the transaction on her bank statement because she said the transaction is not processed until after the food is picked up from the restaurant, the report reads, “[The Atlanta woman] stated she wished to press charges and sent me screen shots of the confirmation email. The emails did not include a total price or a credit card number.”
Bodycam footage from the incident, obtained by WFSU, shows that about 40 seconds after officers approached Foster at Hobbit, they detained her and put her in handcuffs.
Foster says officers “Didn’t ask my name. Nothing. Walked me out pushed me against the wall and cuffed me.” The video confirms neither of the two officers on scene asked Foster her name.
In the video, officers are seen and heard telling Foster repeatedly to “calm down” as she gets increasingly visibly upset and yells profanity at the police. But the video does not show officers giving Foster an explanation as to why she was being detained before putting the handcuffs on. Officers led Foster to a police car and left her in the backseat, with the door open.
“The officers’ actions were within Department policy, and Florida statute,” said Officer Rachelle Denmark, adding the complaint was reviewed and documented by the Department’s Internal Affairs Unit.
Foster took to Twitter to express her frustration with the incident, writing officers “unlawfully detain[ed] me last night over MY OWN $21 wing order. I was placed in hand cuffs immediately. I was never asked my name or told what was going on.”
The TPD incident report tells a different story from Foster’s account. It says, once Foster was led outside, she “began to walk away from Officer Roberts and I. I told the female to walk toward our patrol vehicles and she became uncooperative, walking away at a faster pace and cursing. Based on the female’s actions (walking away from us), I believed she might run.”
Officer Giulia Nastasi at one point tells Foster she’s being detained “for the use of a credit card that’s not yours.”
But ultimately, Foster proved the credit card used was hers, according to the TPD report:
“Foster was able to pull up the transaction showing the last four digits of the credit card used on the order,” the report reads. “The last four digits matched a Wells Fargo credit card Foster had with her name on it.”
Hobbit was unable to verify for police that the credit card was Foster’s, because it was used on the third-party app.
Foster says on Twitter that she has contacted an attorney and plans to sue the City of Tallahassee and the restaurant. “I have bruises and a messed up shoulder from them mishandling me,” she tweeted, adding in another tweet, “This is what it means to be a black woman in America.”
When officers finally figured out the mix-up was based on an email account, they released Foster from handcuffs. Officer Nastasi described it in the report:
“Officer Roberts and I took Foster out of handcuffs and advised her she was free to leave. I confirmed with the Chanita Foster in Atlanta that she did not have a credit card ending in those four digits and she advised she did not.”
As the Chanita Foster who was detained at Hobbit Saturday wrote her account of what happened on social media, the identically-named Chanita Foster from Atlanta found the post, and chimed in. She defended TPD, writing,
“This information is FALSE!!! I called the POLICE!!!! Call ME!!!! She has MY information on a ORDER!!!! She needs to tell the TRUTH! This is attention seeking at its finest,” the Georgia resident tweeted. She also went on to defend Hobbit on Twitter, writing:
“It is a Business responsibility to PROTECT their customers! I’m thankful that (The Hobbit) took fast action to make sure my Identity wasn’t stolen or use!”
The Chanita Foster who was detained by TPD replied: “Ma’am. My name is ChaNita Foster. I didn’t have your information on an order I had MINE! You think you the only one in the world with this name?”
WFSU has requested interviews with both women but neither have answered.