A gay Atlanta man says he was assaulted and thrown out of LA Fitness at Ansley Mall by a trainer after a verbal confrontation turned violent.
The Feb. 3 incident left Darryl Yosue shaken, then shocked when the gym responded by banning him from stepping foot inside the building, revoking his membership and convincing an Atlanta police officer to tell him that he was also prohibited from visiting any business at Ansley Mall.
“It was violent,” Yosue says. “[The trainer] grabbed me in a very aggressive manner. He grabbed my arm and around my upper back and dragged me from the back of the gym all the way to the front. He takes me to the front door and throws me physically out of the door.”
The incident unfolded about 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 at the gay-popular gym on Piedmont Road in Ansley Mall. Yosue says he was exercising in an area near the aerobics room that in the past had been cordoned off for use by fitness trainers and clients – though it's not clearly labeled with restrictions now. A trainer, Byron Phillips, approached the area with a female client and demanded that Yosue stop using a piece of equipment and move, according to his account and an Atlanta police incident report.
“I was a little taken aback. It was very aggressive and unprofessional,” Yosue says.
When Yosue asked the trainer for clarification, Yosue says Phillips used profanity and pointed to a sign that explained restrictions for the area. The confrontation escalated when the trainer allegedly told Yosue, “You need to get the fuck out.” Yosue shouted back with profanities of his own and then went to speak with a manager at the facility.
“I was upset. I was very upset at this point because I felt like he was extremely disrespectful. My volume was louder than it usually was,” Yosue says.
Yosue, a 15-year member of the gym, complained to a manager, who took no action, he says. When Yosue walked back to tell Phillips he filed a complaint, the trainer erupted, he says.
“At the point, he snapped. He lost his mind. He stood up and he said, 'Get the fuck out of my face.' I said fuck you and that's when the assault started,” Yosue says. He was physically thrown out of the gym, though his personal belongings were still inside. Yosue says he called police from a phone inside the nearby Starbucks.
As he waited for police to arrive, Yosue says a handful of people approached him to say they witnessed the confrontation and had similar run-ins with Phillips in the past.
Phillips told a police officer that as the confrontation with Yosue grew heated, he asked Yosue to leave the gym and “escorted” him out when he refused.
According to the incident report:
Mr. Phillips stated that Mr. Yosue was on one of the machines in the restricted area and he approached the male, pointed to signs stated the area was restricted and asked him to relocate to the general gym area for members. Mr. Phillips stated that Mr. Yosue stated “Fuck the sign” and began to get irate, loud and aggressive. Mr. Phillips stated that he asked Mr. Yosue to calm down and exit the gym and he refused to comply. Mr. Phillips stated that after several minutes of yelling, Mr. Yosue then walked to the front of the store only to return a few minutes later. Mr. Phillips stated that on the second confrontation Mr. Yosue began yelling that he had spoken with a supervisor and he was going to get in trouble. Mr. Phillips stated that as Mr. Yosue began to yell, scream, curse and cause a disturbance he attempted to step between himself and his client, pushing her aside. Mr. Phillips stated that for the safety of his client (a female who is much shorter and smaller than Mr. Yosue) he again asked Mr. Yosue to leave the gym and he refused. Mr. Phillips stated that the gym has several policies in place in regards to aggressive behavior, language and disruption and for the safety of his client and other members he escorted Mr. Yosue out of the gym.
An LA Fitness manager told Atlanta police that an official with the Los Angeles-based company told her to revoke Yosue's membership and ask him to leave. Yosue says he was surprised when the officer told him that LA Fitness banned him from the property, a move the officer says in his report also applied to the larger Ansley Mall that the gym anchors.
“Now I'm in shock. I just got assaulted, thrown out of the gym and now you're telling me LA Fitness is revoking my membership and banning me. This is where it turns into the twilight zone for me,” Yosue says.
Since the incident, Yosue says he's attempted to speak with LA Fitness officials, who remain adamant that his membership cancellation is permanent and have not taken any action to investigate the incident. But he says the apparent banishment from Ansley Mall has been reversed. Also, an Atlanta police investigator is now looking into the incident, Yosue says.
“[LA Fitness] has a culture of aggression and a culture of we don't care about our members,” Yosue says.
Yosue says LA Fitness should apologize and that the trainer should be fired and arrested for assault.
“I don't want this to happen to another person. I want him to be fired and I want LA Fitness to send a message that's not they way they treat their customers,” Yosue says.
We've reached out to officials with Selig Enterprises, which owns Ansley Mall, and LA Fitness and will update the post if they respond.