LETHBRIDGE - It happened April 21, while Kelly Pocha and her husband were visiting from Cranbrook, where they live. Now a video that has been viewed more than 100,000 times has Pocha saying it's not the whole story.
She tells LNN she had been drinking that night, and that she and her husband went into the Denny's to grab something to eat late at night.
She claims three men at the table behind them "started talking in their own language" behind her back, and were laughing at her and she believes, "making fun of her." It set her off.
"It started with a look. I turned around and looked at the one gentleman and he was staring at me. And I said is there a problem? And he said, 'no, no problem.' And I turned back around and I kind of looked over my shoulder again and he was still staring at me and I turned around and they were all kind of talking to each other in their own language and then they all started laughing at me. And that's basically when things started to get said. I normally don't get that angry, I have to get provoked.
"You're only hearing one side of the story. He decided to hit record when I was extremely irritated and heated. You don't see the whole video, you don't see what was said to me, things like that. So yeah, I'm extremely upset about it, cause it's gotten, I think, way out of hand."
In the video, recorded by and posted to Facebook by Monir Omerzai, Pocha can be heard swearing and telling the men "you're a f***ing ignorant prick... go back to your f***ing country, we don't need you here."
Her husband can be seen even restraining his wife as she argues for several minutes with the three men.
"I was born and raised here. I am Canadian," Pocha yelled.
The men are heard telling Pocha, "It doesn't matter, we're all Canadian. We are all Canadian."
The argument continued, with Pocha saying, "you're not dealing with one of your Syrian b**** right now, and I'm not going to be talked down to by you."
Omerzai, speaking with Global News Lethbridge, says never in his 13 years in Canada has he heard someone say the things Pocha said to them that night.
"She just started calling us names, she started calling us - that we're from Syria, we're from this country or from that country. I mean, as a human being we should be never get treated like that. I was never expecting that sort of experience from a grown up lady, and saying those things to us."
Pocha says someone from Denny's eventually called police and the couple was asked to leave.
A manager does appear in the video posted by Omerzai but appears to stand by and allow the incident to continue.
LNN has contacted Denny's Lethbridge restaurant. A staff member says managers are aware of the video but were not available for comment. We have also tried contacting Denny's corporate offices, with no success.
Pocha says she's upset the video has gone viral and now doesn't know how to deal with it.
"I don't know how to handle this kind of attention... I really don't know what to do at this point in time."
And she admits her comments were racist.
"Oh of course, of course it was. If I could take it back, I would. But I can't."
Her employer has also been notified and she's not sure what any further fallout might be.
"What people are seeing isn't the whole story. I was put down as well. There were comments made to me. My reaction was basically me just angry. Yes, I made some comments that shouldn't have been said...I even went back to Denny's and apologised to the manager, to the server. I told the manager if I could apologise to the men that were there, I would, for my actions. Because I mean, that's not who I am."
Pocha says she's a hardworking mom of three, and it was an "off" day.
"It is what it is...but I do apologise for what I said, cause a lot of it is not me. I don't normally say things like that."
That said, she realises that the video can and likely will damage her reputation.
Lethbridge Police investigation
The Lethbridge Police Service has revealed more about their involvement in the incident and are refuting a particular statement made online by one of the parties involved.
In a media release Wednesday evening, May 9, LPS report that they responded to a report of a disturbance between patrons.
After arriving, officers were told by restaurant staff that the two groups had been separated following a verbal dispute in which both sides were yelling, and one individual used racial slurs.
Staff ultimately decided, after speaking with police, to refuse service to both groups and they were asked to leave. Both groups did eventually leave without further incident.
Police say any statements made that suggest police only advised one group to leave the restaurant and escorted them out are false.
They then noted that there has been no further outreach or reports from anyone involved, prior to the video gaining attention on social media. They added that the investigation will continue and further updates will be provided as more facts become available.
Reaction from Lethbridge mayor, Pocha's former employer
On his personal Facebook page, Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman writes, “I am embarrassed to learn that this incident happened in Lethbridge. We are working hard to address racism and bigotry but can not prevent ignorance and the hostile behaviour of individuals. Most Lethbridge citizens are proud of our reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees."
Dodge Chrysler in Cranbrook, B.C. has now posted a message to its site, indicating that Pocha is no longer employed there. Here is the statement in full:
"We have recently become aware of a disturbing video that involves one of our employees. We are deeply concerned about the content of this video and want all of our friends, families, colleagues, and customers to know that this behaviour does not reflect the values of Cranbrook Dodge in any way. We strive to be a welcoming and inclusive company with no room for hate or intolerance.
The employee in question has been terminated and we deeply apologize for her actions.
Sincerely, Dave Girling and the Cranbrook Dodge Team"
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