Updated: 11/18/10 4:52 p.m.
OAK LAWN, Ill. (CBS) – A grandmother’s family says she was assaulted by a security guard at a Hooters in Oak Lawn after disputing her bill.
Livier Torres is now being held for a 200-day sentence at the Cook County Jail, after being charged with, and convicted of battery for spitting on the off-duty Oak Lawn police officer who was working as a security guard at Hooters.
But her attorney says Torres never spit on the officer, and witnesses and surveillance video support that.
Liver’s son, Michael Torres, says his mother assaulted nobody. Rather, Torres alleges, the security guard assaulted his mother on Jan. 10, at the Hooters at 9159 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn.
The family has now filed a lawsuit.
It all started when Livier Torres and her daughter went to the Hooters for a girls’ night out, Michael Torres said. When they received the check, they discovered a charge that didn’t belong.
Livier Torres told the waitress she would not pay for the item she hadn’t ordered. The waitress then left to get someone else. But instead of getting the manager, she got the security officer, Joseph Schmidt, Michael Torres said.
Schmidt ordered Livier Torres to pay the entire bill. After a talk with the manager, Livier Torres agreed to pay the bill and handed over her credit card, her son said.
“I guess they had settled it right then and there, but I guess the security guard was having a bad day that day, and was just provoking her and getting mad; leaning up against her with his elbows out,” he said.
Livier Torres pushed back to get the man off, her son said.
“As a woman, of course, you’re not going to let a man get up on you like that,” Michael Torres said.
At that point, Michael Torres claims, the security officer said “a smart remark, saying, ‘All you guys are the same,’ which means trying to say, ‘All Mexicans are the same.’”
This prompted Livier Torres to get upset and yell back, her son said. As the manager took her credit card and finalized her payment, she told the officer he shouldn’t get in people’s faces and confront people, Michael Torres said.
But Schmidt was “still trying to provoke her to get her mad,” Michael Torres said.
Surveillance video shows Schmidt, who is much larger than Livier Torres, getting into a heated argument with her. At one point, her daughter tries to separate them.
Schmidt was wearing a shirt that said “police” on the back, even though he was off-duty from his job as an Oak Lawn police officer and working as a private security guard for the Hooters.
Michael Torres said the manager returned with his mother’s credit card receipt, and she had turned around to sign it. At that point, he said, the officer “grabbed her from behind slammed her down, and tried keeping her down by her hair.”
In the video, the officer grabs Livier Torres, places her in a headlock and takes her to the floor. Others begin crowding around the scene as they see the scuffle.
But when the crowd rushed to her defense, the security officer reminded them all that he was also a police officer, Michael Torres said.
Michael Torres said on-duty officers came soon afterward, and his mother was arrested.
“He got on his walkie-talkie right away, and not even two or three minutes later, the cops were there, like real fast,” Michael Torres said.
While Livier Torres was in the squad car waiting to be taken away, Hooters brought out the bill for her to sign, Michael Torres said.
The officer claimed that Livier Torres had spat in his face, and she was charged with assault, convicted and sentenced to 200 days in the maximum security women’s section of the Cook County Jail, her son said.
“But in the video, you can see that she’s innocent. She never spit on the man at all, and he was provoking her, and he went overboard with what he did,” Michael Torres said.
While Livier Torres and her daughter had shared a pitcher of beer, no one was drinking heavily, Michael Torres said.
“All they were trying to do is have a good time, and this guy came and just ruined their night,” he said.
Michael Torres said the situation reminded him of the February 2007 incident in which Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate brutally beat a bartender half his size after she refused to serve him another drink. That incident made national headlines and damaged the reputation of the entire department.
“You always see stuff like that on TV. You never think it would actually happen to someone in your family,” Michael Torres said.
Michael Torres has a son of his own who was celebrating his 5th birthday Wednesday. His son was recently diagnosed with autism, and Livier Torres frequently helped out and spent time with the boy.
“She was a big part of his life, and he’s always asking, ‘Where’s she at now?’” Michael Torres said. “He doesn’t really understand where she’s at. I just tell him, you know, ‘She’s at home.’”
The lawsuit seeks more than $180,000 from Hooters, and more than $100,000 from Officer Thompson. The Village of Oak Lawn is also listed as a defendant.
The mayor of Oak Lawn says the first he heard of the January incident was yesterday. He’s now investigating.
No complaint was ever filed against the officer. He’s still on the force.
Hooters issued a statement, which says in part: “a full review of the security video and the testimony of several eye witnesses was enough to convict the plaintiff of crimes including assault and resisting arrest.”
Hooters also points out Torres’ numerous prior convictions. Among them, court records show several DUI’s, a previous battery, an arrest for shoplifting and false personation of a public employee.
Michael Torres also trying to raise money to fund the appeal of his mother’s conviction. He says he hopes she can be released from jail before Christmas.
Adam Harrington, cbschicago.com. CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot and the Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.