MESA, AZ — Mesa police are looking at whether a possible hate crime occurred after a Black father had to lunge to stop a pistol from being pulled on him and his wife during a business meeting.
The entire incident was caught on camera at Chef's Shared Kitchen in Mesa.
Tom Toot, who is the life partner of the owner, was having an exit interview with Solomon Odubhao and Brittney Myers.
The African American couple told ABC15 they were being forced from the prep kitchen after being given 30 days notice. They operate a food truck called WhachaCookin.
As they were meeting with Toot, who told them he was in charge of the kitchen's scheduling and operations, the conversation became tense.
"He told us we were contaminating their whole kitchen," said Brittney.
"I was like, cool I’m not going to tolerate no disrespect towards me or my wife," said Solomon.
"Then he just reached for his gun," said Brittney. "I immediately braced myself like, 'Oh my God we are going to get shot.'"
"I went with my instincts," said Solomon.
Video and the police report show that the father jumped on Toot and grabbed the gun before it could be completely removed.
"He tried to squeeze the trigger, through his shirt, at my chest," said Solomon. "I didn’t come there to get killed."
For roughly 11 minutes, Solomon kept his hand on the gun while his wife talked with police.
"I kept pleading on the 911 call, 'My husband is not the suspect. He’s African-American. He’s fighting the guy with a gun. His hand is on the weapon, but please whatever you do, do not shoot him,'" recalled Brittney.
Seven Mesa officers rolled up at the subdued confrontation, with guns drawn. Both men were told to put their hands on their head before Solomon was pulled out of the way and Toot was tasered.
Toot is now charged with aggravated assault. His release conditions stipulate that he is no longer allowed back at the scene.
In a statement to ABC15, Toot's lawyer, Michelle Skura with "Villanueva Skura Attorneys at Law" said:
"Mr. Toot enjoys the presumption of innocence under the 5th and 14th amendments of the US Constitution. As such the State has the burden of proof and not Mr. Toot to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime he is being accused of. Mr. Toot deserves the opportunity to defend himself and to be judged by a court of law and not the court of public opinion.
Candice is a business woman and Tom is disabled veteran, both of them have worked and served alongside people from all walks of life and have never discriminated against anyone regardless of race, sexual orientation or religious preference. Prior to this incident they had never been accused of being racist and are sickened by the allegation."
Mesa Police told ABC15:
"The investigators are looking into the suspect’s motivation for these crimes. If there is evidence to show this incident is a hate or bias crime based on the race or ethnicity of the victims, this incident will be labeled as such and that information will be forwarded to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office."