Security camera catches Savannah waitress fending off apparent groper

Security camera catches Savannah waitress fending off apparent groper
Published: Jul. 19, 2018 at 7:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2018 at 7:19 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Security camera footage at a pizza restaurant in downtown Savannah, Georgia, captured the moment a 21-year-old waitress fended off a man who appears to grope her.

The footage, captured at VinnieVanGoGo's in City Market, shows Emelia Holden throwing Ryan Cherwinski, 31, to the ground after he appeared to touch her buttocks.

Holden was in the final hour of her shift at the pizza restaurant when Cherwinski apparently grabbed her.

"I took someone's order and I was getting ready to set them up and then I just felt it," she said. "I was like, 'nope that's not going to happen' and turned around and took the guy down."

Afterwards she called the Savannah Police Department and officers arrested Cherwinski.

The incident took place on June 30, but the video first went viral Monday on Reddit.

"I sent the video to family, and one of my family members posted it," Holden said. "It just went from there."

National media outlets and social media users have since given her story widespread attention.

"There's been a lot of positive responses to this, but then there's also been the few that are like, 'those shorts are small,'" Holden said. "That shouldn't matter. It's upsetting to see people that have that train of thought, but it's really reassuring to see how positive everyone else has responded to it."

Watch an extended interview with Holden:

In light of the the recent "#metoo" women's empowerment movement, Holden is happy to be a source of inspiration, especially for women who work in the service industry who face harassment from customers.

"Recently, there's the whole #metoo movement, and I think that's really great," she said. "What I get from this is just how inspiring it is to other women. You have every right to stand up for yourself no matter who it is. No one has the right to put their hands on you. No means no. You have to have consent."

Perhaps what distinguishes Holden's place among the movement is the physicality of her incident. She surprised herself when she threw Cherwinkski, who weighs 175 pounds according to the police report, to the ground.

"I'm 115 pounds. I didn't know I could do that," she said. "I guess I just had the right stance for it and I did it."

What appeared to be a quick, decisive reaction in the 12-second video did not initially feel that way to Holden.

"It felt a lot longer than it was, but watching it I realized how quickly I reacted to it," she said. "I was like, 'no, you're not going anywhere. You're going to face the consequences.'"

She has since been offered free martial arts classes, and she said she plans to take advantage of the self-defense training.

Holden said the restaurant has stood by her. The manager of the restaurant told police he witnessed the event and provided them with the surveillance footage.

"I'm also very fortunate to work at a restaurant where I get a phone call like, 'oh, that was awesome' from the owner instead of being like, 'oh, well he's the customer. Don't put your hands on people like that,'" she said.  "It's the other way around. Don't put your hands on me. You don't touch me, I don't touch you."

Police arrested Cherwinski and charged him with sexual battery after the incident. He told police that "it was an accident that he grabbed the waitress, that he was only trying to inform her to move because she was in the way."

Holden had one final message for Cherwinski.

"I got what I wanted when they put him in handcuffs," she said. "Best wishes to your daughters."

Holden has since used the attention that she has received after the video went viral to direct people to a cause she cares about, specifically the Islands Feral Cat Project. The gofundme has since received $3,000 of its $5,000 goal. If you'd like to help out, click here.

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