IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - An Iredell County sheriff's deputy was told he could not come into a jewelry store while he was in uniform because of his service weapon. Despite telling the store employees it would be a violation of policy for him to remove his gun while in uniform, he says he was denied service.
On Wednesday, the Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell posted on Facebook, saying the deputy was told an engagement ring he had bought had been sized and was ready for pickup at the Kay Jewelers on Turnersburg Highway in Statesville.
"It is a special time in his life and he was trying to do a nice thing for someone he loved," said Melissa Hollar, who lives in Statesville. "Now it's this negative thing."
The deputy went to pick the ring up on his lunch break, but was met at the door by a manager who told him he could not have his gun on him while in their store.
"He was refused service because he was in a uniform," said Sheriff Darren Campbell. "That causes me great concern. Not just for us but for all law enforcement agency around."
The deputy was in uniform and had his marked patrol car in the parking lot. He told the manager that it would be against policy to remove his service weapon while on duty, but the manager said he would need to come back to the store when he wasn't armed, and the deputy left the store without the ring.
"The reaction our deputy encountered is very difficult for us to comprehend, and we earnestly hope situations such as these are few and are diminishing," the Sheriff's Office wrote. "Thank you to the citizens and businesses in our area who whole heartedly support the men and women who wear the badge."
The Sheriff explained their policy why a deputy cannot disarm. Statesville residents expect them to protect and defend.
"If an emergency happens, here's what you have to expect from an officer: an officer is going to be armed. That's tools of the trade," said Sheriff Campbell.
"What's the difference if he came in to save him if somebody was robbing the place? And then coming in to purchase something. It's the same thing," said Hollar.
Kay Jewelers issued an apology via Facebook around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, saying:
Kay Jewelers is reaching out to the customer and the Iredell County Sheriff's Office to sincerely apologize for the mishandling of this matter. We have tremendous respect for law enforcement, and we thank the Office for bringing this to our attention. We will be sure to reinforce store training regarding our firearm policy with specific regard to uniformed law enforcement.
The Sheriff's Office says it made numerous attempts to contact Kay Jewelers' corporate office, but received no response. They also say they have recieved support from other jewelery stores, some even offering rings to the deputy.
"I would return the ring, get my money back and go shop somewhere else," said James Bellarmy.
"We've had numerous rings offered through email," said Sheriff Campbell. "They are in total support of that officer."
Signet (the parent company of Kay Jewelers) Vice President of Corporate Affairs David Bouffard responded to FOX 46 media partner WSIC's request for comment within minutes Wednesday afternoon as the situation started to gain attention on social media.
Kay Jewelers is reaching out to the customer and the Iredell County Sheriff's Office to sincerely apologize for the handling of this matter," wrote Bouffard.
"We have tremendous respect for law enforcement, as our partnership with law enforcement is critical. We thank the Office for bringing this matter to our attention. We will be sure to reinforce store training regarding our firearm policy with specific regard to uniformed law enforcement.
Now some Statesville neighbors tell Fox46 Charlotte the company needs to do more: "I think maybe the manager should lose his job because it's very disrespectful for what he done," said Hollar.
The post from the sheriff's office had nearly 5,000 reactions after just five hours, with thousands commenting their support for the deputy.
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