A Long Island, N.Y., dad to two special needs children said his family was just leaving an IHOP when he heard an employee make a comment about his kids. He went back in to see if someone had something more to say and said that he was threatened by the woman who served their table.

IHOP server Rhonda Kelly, 50, has been arrested for grabbing a steak knife and threatening the family of four. Officially, she’s been charged with menacing.

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The Cocuzza family in an interview with NBC 4 said that at first they thought Kelly was just in a bad mood and that her service was suffering because of it, but they now feel something else was going on.

They say when they complained to a manager about Kelly’s service, the parents and their two kids were asked to leave. When they did, the father says he heard something he didn’t like on the way out.

“She had a little bit of an attitude from the beginning, and I took it as, it’s early morning, I’m not really at my best in the early morning,” Chris Cocuzza said. “That [snide comment made as we walked out] struck a really big nerve with me, and I did an about-face and walked back in to the restaurant.”

NBC 4/screenshot

He said that after this, the IHOP staff surrounded them, and Kelly had a steak knife.

“I was scared, appalled and totally shocked,” mom Catherine Cocuzza said. She said Kelly had a knife and that another employee took it away from her.

NBC 4/screenshot

The reason the family was asked to leave is not clear, but what is clear is that Kelly has been busted for what happened immediately after that.

NBC 4/screenshot

When asked for a comment about the incident, IHOP said in a statement that employees “reacted to what they viewed as an immediate threat to their personal safety.”

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“This was a situation that would be difficult for anyone to imagine and we wish the outcome had been different,” the owner of that IHOP franchise, Camile Gnolfo, said. “Multiple employees reacted to what they viewed as an immediate threat to their personal safety.”

A dad heard a comment about his kids and stormed back into IHOP — then their server grabbed a knife NBC 4/screenshot
Matt Naham About the author:
Matt Naham is the Weekend Editor  for Rare. Follow him on Twitter @matt_naham.
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