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‘You Can’t Do That’: Georgia Student ‘Terrified’ After Popeyes Workers Called Police on Her While She Was Trying to Buy Homeless Man Dinner

A Georgia State University student who worked during her downtime as a food delivery service worker says Popeyes employees refused to sell food to her because she wanted to give the meal to a homeless person. She took to social media to share with the public how nasty the fast food workers were to her.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, student Jo Ortega was picking up a DoorDash from the Popeyes on Ponce de Leon Ave near downtown, when she saw a man she believed was transient and hungry. She decided she would order the individual a chicken dinner but was shocked when the worker prohibited her from making the purchase.

Ortega recorded and posted the video on her @thegirlyjo TikTok account, and the exchange with the workers went viral.

The two videos of the incident have received a combined 6.6 million views.

A subsequent video explains how after she was told her DoorDash order was not ready, she decided to go back and ask the man she saw if he wanted anything to eat. She told the workers what she was going to do before she got his order for a two-piece dinner.

In the footage, Ortega is seen attempting to place an order for a man the viewers later learn is named Jazz. She met the gentleman on the side of the road on her way to complete her pick-up.

The worker said, “No ma’am, you can’t do it.”

“Why? He’s asking for food?” responded Ortega.

A separate employee said before shutting the drive-thru window, “Ma’am, you can’t do it. I could care less about you recording me, baby.”

Ortega says because she was adamant about helping the unsheltered person the Popeyes employees called law enforcement on her. In the second video, patrol cars are seen with their lights flashing.

She says in the video, “They called the cops on me, everything, bro. I can’t order anything for this homeless man right here, he asked for food, he didn’t ask for no money. And they being so rude.”

In an interview with FOX 5 Atlanta, Ortega said, “At that moment I was terrified, I thought I was gonna get arrested. Maybe I should just call my family, and I might not be coming home tonight.”

The Atlanta Police Department’s Public Information Officer, Benjamin Hopson said, “Units arrived on the scene, and the caller was already gone. The call was cleared with no arrest/no report.”

Ortega reports police spoke to the general manager of the franchise and explained the situation to them. The good Samaritan said the manager felt bad about how her staff handled the situation and allowed Ortega and the man to order whatever they wanted from the menu for free.

According to Ortega, one of the responding officers thanked her for attempting to buy food for the man. She said, “The officer pulled me to the side and said, ‘I really thank you for doing that, thank you for buying him food. I appreciate that.”

The officer was not the only one thanking her. In one of the videos, the man who she wanted to support, said while holding a drink from the restaurant, “My name is Jazz, and thanks.”

The National Alliance to End Homelessness reported in 2020, there are 580,466 homeless people in the United States of America.  

Data from a more local source, the Atlanta Continuum of Care, finds there are “3,240 homeless people were counted within city limits, 939 of whom were unsheltered (found to be outside or in cars).”

In a statement, Popeyes said as a company it is “committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect.”

“We have ensured all employees at this restaurant have been provided with retraining to help navigate a range of guest interactions, such as the situation highlighted in the video.”

The student has started a fundraiser to assist in finding permanent shelter for Jazz.

“I want to help get him off the streets and buy him a new tent and socks etc. All of the proceeds will go towards him and I’m currently looking for any programs in Atlanta Georgia that could help him out in his situation,” she wrote. “Also, please contact me if you have any resources that could help!”

Ortega says she is going to start a separate GoFundMe to support other unsheltered families that have reached out to her since that evening.

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