According to charging papers, police recommended the felony charge after surveillance video showed Culpepper hit the other man with a chair.
That was not captured on the video.
"I was just trying to have an omelet,” said Dunia Matamoros, who recorded the video. "Everybody was like, ‘I can't believe that just happened.’"
The cellphone video showed the two men exchanging words, with Culpepper standing and the other sitting.
"Out of nowhere, he just started kind of discussing something with the other guy,” Matamoros said. “I knew something was coming.”
After Culpepper is seen hitting the other man, the two men fight, knocking over chairs, pushing tables and breaking dishes as people eating in the restaurant try to get out of the way.
Charging papers state other customers helped separate the men.
“Right after the slap, everybody turned around,” said Matamoros. “We all heard that.”
Seattle police said they responded and arrested Culpepper, who told them he was eating when he overheard the other man and his “mixed-race” girlfriend discussing “African Americans and church.”
Culpepper took offense and interjected, claiming the other man then used a racial slur, charging papers said, and told police “he didn’t want to look like a punk.”
The man who was hit off-camera denied using the slur.
He said he was just trying to enjoy the pancakes he ordered and wants to move on from what happened last Sunday. Police described him as having a cut under his eye, and redness and swelling on his face when they arrived at the IHOP.
Investigators said in charging papers that Culpepper was intoxicated and has been convicted of assault before.
King County prosecutors said a judge found probable cause to charge Culpepper with felony second-degree assault Monday. A charging decision is expected Wednesday.