Bystander Intervention: Mellow Mushroom Manager Stops Intimate Partner Violence
Content Warning: This article contains a graphic description of intimate partner violence and assault.
Denton Police Department got a phone call a quarter past midnight on Saturday about a fight on Hickory Street in which a woman intervened after witnessing a couple's argument become physical . She was told to "mind her business" before being thrown to the ground and repeatedly punched by the man involved, Denton PD Spokesman Shane Kizer said.
Taylor Potter has lived and worked on Hickory Street for seven years. She walks up and down the street at least three or four times a day, every day. Saturday wasn't supposed to be any different. Potter was closing at Mellow Mushroom, and though it was late, the 12:30 a.m. walk was just like any other. Until it wasn’t.
It was on that walk, going west along Hickory and just in front of the Alsup’s building, that Potter realized a man just in front of her was yelling at the woman with him. At first, she thought she would leave the situation alone.
“I saw them getting into an argument and I thought, ‘I’ll mind my own business.’ We’ve all gotten into fights with people, with friends, lovers, whoever, but it was getting very aggressive,” Potter said. “I still thought, ‘Do I get involved? At what point do I get involved? At what point does someone need to step in?’”
As Potter smoked a cigarette and hid along a fence nearby where she could still view the couple, she noted that it was rapidly progressing into a worse situation.
“Anyone who comes from an abusive past knows that that’s what [the abuser] tell[s] you before they hit you, to make it feel like it’s your fault: ‘This is why you make me mad, this is why you piss me off,’” Potter said. “I recognized that and I had a gut feeling that it was going to escalate.”
Potter had seen Mellow Mushroom general manager Brett Houston’s truck, and, at this point, decided to call him. Houston was just across the street at Hickory Street Lounge, and he even stepped outside to hear the call better, waving at her from across the street. Potter told him what she was hearing, and warned Houston that she was ready to intervene if necessary.
It was at that moment that she turned and saw the man violently choking the woman out against the wall of Queenie’s Steakhouse. Potter then said, ‘It’s happening. I gotta jump in’ and shoved her phone in her pocket.
Potter was along the barrier between the Queenie’s patio and the sidewalk when she called out to the man, saying that he needed to get his hands off the woman. Before she knew it, the man had let the woman crumple to the ground and forced Potter face-first against the wall, punching her repeatedly in the face and the back of her head.
Then, the man began repeatedly throwing Potter’s entire body onto the pavement, telling her that she needed to "mind her own business." In this short span, Houston, who had been quickly walking from across the street, saw the severity of the situation and began sprinting. Though the man was much larger than him, Houston pulled him off. Almost immediately, the man quickly walked toward Austin Street, with Houston beginning to tail him while describing the situation and the man to 911. The woman also got up and went after the man. Potter said she called out to her that she didn’t have to go back to him.
Houston attempted to follow the man, but as he ran, lost him somewhere along Oak Street. Houston returned to Hickory Street Lounge, quickly enlisted the help of friends, and searched for the man to no avail. Houston joined Potter at this point, who was waiting inside Queenie’s, and they gave their statements to the police.
The manager on duty at Queenie’s, after seeing the size of the man, locked the door and grabbed four male employees before exiting the building, just as Houston had pulled the man off of Potter.
“You do have to protect your restaurant,” Potter said. “There’s guests in there, there’s staff. You’ve gotta lock the front door. That’s home right there and you have to protect it. By the time that he and his four other staff members got out there, Brett had already pulled him off.”
The Queenie’s staff got Potter water and ice, and assisted her in photographing her injuries. She had a swollen knot above the left side of her eye and several bleeding scratches below the knee, Kizer said. Potter said that the next day, her vision in her left eye was strained, and by Monday morning, the swelling in her face had gone down, and her left eye was black and purple.
Since there were no suspects or evidence, there is almost nothing that can be done. Potter has decided to look at the incident in the most positive light possible.
“We stopped that one incident and she left with him. That’s unfortunate, but we stopped it that one time, and that might have been enough for her to get out safe the next day,” Potter said. “I can’t protect her anymore after that.”
Potter and Houston both urged the importance of backing yourself up if you find yourself witnessing an incident like this, either by reaching out to nearby friends or family, or calling the police and letting them know your exact location before acting.
"Obviously you have to be careful with how close you get to them. Everyone wants to lend a helping hand when someone's in trouble but in this situation you don't who's done what. You have to be very careful about if you're going to yell at someone to stop make sure you have plenty of distance between you and that person and have your cellphone with you and immediately call 911." Kizer said.
Houston said any restaurant or bar on Hickory has “zero tolerance” for inappropriate behavior, and Potter added that anyone “acting a fool” in Mellow Mushroom or any nearby establishment would “catch it” from any local employees, guaranteed. In the end, she said Houston saved her life.
“That guy was not going to get off me until somebody stepped in, just like he wouldn’t have gotten off that woman until somebody stepped in,” Potter said. “It could be infinitely worse. I had my trench coat on, and I just ducked into it and waited it out until Brett got there, so that was very fortunate.”
Contributions to this article were made by Tori Falcon
Header image photographed by Emily Cline
Header image layout designed by Holden Foster