NewsPolice Misconduct

Black Business Owner Who Called Police is Mistaken for Robber; Has Jaw Broken by Cop’s Punch

A black business owner in Decatur, Alabama was mistaken for a robbery suspect and punched in the face by a police officer.

The encounter occurred on March 15 but is just becoming public now after surveillance video of the incident was posted on social media over the weekend.

The video has no audio, however, it shows police officers inside Star Spirits & Beverages liquor store in Decatur talking to owner Kevin Penn.Penn can be seen in the video carrying a gun inside the store as he waits for the police. Before police enter the store, Penn appears to put the gun down and remove the clip. As he is talking to police he is suddenly punched in the face by one of the officers, dragged to the ground and arrested.

Penn says he called police to his store to report that he had been robbed and that he was holding the suspect at gunpoint.

According to Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen, officers were called to investigate a robbery and because Penn was armed they believed he might have been the suspect.

Decatur police have not released body camera footage of the incident to the public, however, Allen allowed the press to watch and record the footage from a screen during a press conference on Monday.

The footage, which was edited with captions and delayed at points, doesn’t appear to clearly show what happened.

In the bodycam footage, police can be heard telling Penn to put down his gun. Penn refuses, saying, “I have a right to have my gun.”

The chief said Penn was holding a magazine in his other hand, which police at the time may have believed to be a gun.

As Penn and the police appear to argue about the gun, an officer walks in and immediately punches him in the face. The officer’s name hasn’t been released, but the chief said he is on desk duty pending an internal investigation. The police department has been investigating the incident since the day after it happened, nearly three months ago.

When asked whether the punch amounted to excessive force, Allen said officers should use the “least amount of force necessary to get the job done.”

“I would much rather have a punch than an officer-involved shooting,” the chief said.

According to Penn’s lawyer, Carl Cole, the man suffered a broken jaw and some of his teeth were knocked out as a result of the punch. Penn underwent several weeks of treatment, including having his mouth wired shut, his lawyer said.

Court records show that Penn was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing governmental operations. Police accused him of obstructing their investigation of the robbery.

Decatur, Ala. officials are holding a press conference in response to a video showing an officer punch a business owner who says he called police to investigate a robbery at his liquor store.

Posted by The Huntsville Times on Monday, June 8, 2020

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