The veteran who made headlines after he, his family, friends and service dog were verbally assaulted by a woman at a Delaware restaurant is stepping forward to tell his side of the story- and so is the woman who screamed at him.
Retired US Army Master Sergeant Bill Austin -who served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan- and his Great Dane service dog, JP, have been identified as the handler-dog team that fell victim to the vicious verbal assaults of Ciara Miller, who unleashed her taped tirade last week at Kathy’s Crab House in Delaware City, Delaware.
The incident was first reported by Popular Military, resulting in Miller -who contacted us under the Facebook alias “Ciara Capoeira”- claiming she was defamed and that the reporting of the incident was “inaccurate,” despite Miller never actually being identified in the article, which in itself was a play-by-play account of what was caught on tape.
“I never said anything that’s being claimed,” Miller wrote. “…And don’t appreciate my name and reputation being tarnished based on assumptions.”
In several -varying and often inconsistent- accounts provided to both Popular Military and other media groups, Miller claims that she was initially offended because the large dog had his hind end facing towards her. She then asked her husband why there was not a separate place in the restaurant where people with service animals could sit, i.e., segregating those with disabilities from the general public.
Retired Master Sergeant Austin, who lives out of state and was visiting from Montana, refutes Miller’s claim. Austin claims JP was not facing Miller in the manner she described.
“You’re not allowed to do that,” the retired NCO said about Miller’s suggestion that he should have been segregated. “I know my rights and ADA guidelines.”
When Austin’s wife, Janet, attempted to explain the role and place of JP (and service animals in general), Miller reportedly lost her temper.
“This girl verbally attacked my wife, and it just escalated,” Austin said.
Janet reached out to Popular Military earlier this week to add details to the previously-published account, which was based entirely off the video footage.
“I was asked by restaurant staff to explain [Americans with Disability Act] laws to her,” she wrote, “…And then she started.”
Miller claims she had racial slurs thrown at her, something Austin denied ever happened.
“I really am hoping something positive comes out of this,” Austin said. “This is about bad behavior.”
In response to the global backlash from her behavior, Miller claims she’s become the victim as the situation continues to unfold.
“The flag you see has been in our living room for over 11yrs, it’s my father in laws he passed away with one of the highest honors. I have had two uncles that served in the military that suffered from PTSD so I would ABSOLUTELY NEVER insult a veteran or his service animal EVER,” she wrote in her original statement to Popular Military in defense of her actions.
During the recorded confrontation she clearly states, “My husband’s dad fought for the (expletive) country but it’s [the service dog] nasty to me.”
“I am frightened to send my daughter to school with the level of verbal content is being said to and about me, my family and I based on these fake articles,” Miller said in an email. “There’s now over 1M (million) views on FB this is ridiculous, this content needs to be removed. I have contacted these websites and asked them to remove inaccurate content and slander about me and I have not heard from anyone.”
She would later block the Popular Military Facebook page from responding to her messages. Attempts to reach her via phone, email, and social media to get more of her side of the story have gone unanswered.
Given that Popular Military tried to respond to Miller through multiple mediums, it is possible that her version of what occurred may have been an attempt to excuse what happened.
“I’m leaving cause the food is nasty and there is a dog, so what, what are you going to do about it?,” she said.
In response to the incident, Kathy’s Crab House released the following statement:
“We would like to express at this time how sorry we are over the embarrassing turn of events that occurred earlier this week in our restaurant, here in Delaware City.
It is unfortunate that some of the public are not familiar with federal regulations regarding service animals, which, in fact, do permit service animals into establishments such as grocery stores, public buildings and restaurants, giving aid and comfort to their masters in their time of need.
That being said, we would like to take what may have been perceived as a negative incident and turn this into a positive opportunity, by educating and enlightening the public about the role of service animals and how they help and serve many returning veterans who have suffered serious wounds and injuries, as well as those veterans suffering from PTSD.
So, at this time, we would like to announce that we will be sponsoring a fundraising effort for veterans and service animals thru the Montana Wounded Warriors. We would like to enlist your help as a sponsor, volunteer, or as a donor and help us enlighten and educate the public as well as to help those veterans in need.
Details need to be finalized at this time, but as they come together, we will make additional announcements to keep you apprised of our progress.”
Though the situation continues to become larger than life, one thing is for certain- it will certainly be interesting to see where all this goes.
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