Deriance Ra’Shaiel Hughes is the now-former Popeyes employee who was arrested after police accused him of body-slamming a customer outside of a restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee.
The assault and the confrontation that led up to it were both recorded on cellphone cameras. The customer was identified as Debra Staggs, 55.
Hughes, 29, was fired from Popeyes and faces a felony charge of aggravated assault. The incident happened on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, and Hughes was arrested three days later. Inmate records indicate that as of November 10, Hughes remained in custody.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Debra Staggs Went to the Popeyes For a Refund; Video From the Restaurant Shows a Heated Confrontation Between Her & Several Workers, Including Deriance Hughes
The confrontation between Debra Staggs and the Popeyes workers occurred on November 5, 2019, at the Popeyes located at 823 Nashville Highway in Columbia, Tennessee. Staggs’ attorney says she went to the restaurant to ask for a refund after claiming that she had been charged twice.
Video from the Popeyes begins after the conversation had already become heated. Staggs is seen speaking with multiple workers behind the counter, but it’s difficult to ascertain exactly what she was saying. At one point, you can hear her say, “You don’t act like that.” A worker’s husband claimed that Staggs had kicked his wife during the exchange and used the n-word.
Off-camera, a bystander can be heard saying, “You in the wrong place saying the n-word.” Staggs, through her attorney, has denied using a racial slur. The video does not appear to document any racial slurs, but again, it is difficult to make out what everyone is saying as they yell over each other.
According to NBC affiliate WSMV-TV, the manager asked Staggs repeatedly to leave the store before they called the police on her. Staggs reportedly responded, “Lady, the law is my family.” She did eventually leave temporarily but came back inside. Witnesses told the TV station that Staggs was assaulted after she came back the second time.
A second video posted to social media showed Staggs lifted off the ground then slammed onto the pavement. The man who threw her down was then seen screaming something at her. The attack was also reportedly captured on the restaurant’s surveillance cameras and was shared with the police.
2. Deriance Ra’Shaiel Hughes Was Fired From Popeyes & Charged With Aggravated Assault
Three days after the incident, Columbia Police arrested Deriance Ra’Shaiel Hughes on a charge of felony aggravated assault. The police department spelled his first name “Deriance.” But inmate records suggest that his first name is spelled with two r’s.
Columbia Police asked members of the public to come forward with any additional videos from the scene. Officers say that additional charges could be filed against others who were involved in the altercation.
Hughes is out of a job following his arrest. Fox affiliate WZTV published a statement from Popeyes:
“We were shocked to learn about what happened in Tennessee. These actions run completely contrary to our standards and the integrity of our brand. Following an investigation, the franchisee took immediate action and we were informed that the employee has since been terminated. The entire circumstance is highly unfortunate for all involved and we hope to never see this type of behavior again.”
3. Debra Staggs Suffered Multiple Broken Bones; Her Attorney Claimed the Popeyes Workers Had Called Her an ‘Ugly Cracker’
Debra Staggs is being represented by attorney Rocky McElhaney in the aftermath of the incident at Popeyes. McElhaney explained to the Tennessean that his client had to have two surgeries after the body slam and will require several months of rehab to get back to normal. Her elbow was fractured in nine places, six of her ribs were broken and she suffered a broken leg.
McElhaney told the newspaper that Staggs had called the restaurant after realizing she had been charged twice for her meal. He said that the manager instructed her to come back in-person to receive a refund.
McElhaney added that, according to his client, the manager was hostile to her and claims that workers referred to Staggs as “an ugly broke-down cracker.” He denies the accusation that she used a racial slur.
4. The Popeyes Closed Early The Day That Deriance Hughes Was Arrested
Deriance Hughes was arrested around 2:20 p.m. on Friday, November 8. Columbia Police did not clarify whether he was arrested at work or at his home, stating only that he was taken into custody without incident.
But the Popeyes where he worked had to be closed down early that same day, reportedly due to heightened tensions. A witness identified as Mike Helms told WSMV-TV that he heard some of the Popeyes employees arguing amongst each other. “There was a big screaming and shouting match. I broke out my phone and was going to record and one of the workers came and grabbed my phone out of my hand.” Helms also told the Columbia Daily Herald that he saw an employee pull a knife on the manager.
The outlet reported that the Popeyes closed by mid-afternoon and that multiple police officers were on-hand to help sort out the incident.
5. Deriance Hughes Is a Father
A Facebook page linked to Deriance Ra’Shaiel Hughes shows that he is a father. He has at least one baby son and is engaged.
A second, outdated Facebook page indicates that Hughes is a native of Columbia, Tennesse. He reportedly studied music and criminal justice at Columbia State Community College beginning in 2012.
His name was also included in a 2012 article put out by the college; a Derriance Hughes was listed as a member of the “In His Presence” gospel chorus.