His jaw was broken and his teeth were knocked out.
Alabama police are trying to explain a video that shows a black liquor store owner having his jaw broken by the white police officer he himself called after being robbed.
CCTV footage circulating on social media shows Kevin Penn arguing with officers who just answered his 911 call before one of them punches him in the face.
While the incident occurred in March, Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen was forced to address it at a press conference on Monday as protests against police brutality intensify in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Chief Allen admitted it was a case of mistaken identity, because the officers could not tell who the suspect and who the store owner was.
Showing body cam footage of the same incident, Allen said officers were responding to a reported robbery; when they arrived they found Penn reloading a magazine to his gun, which lay on the counter.
The full video, as reported by WAFF, shows the three armed officers entering the store and demanding Penn put his hands on his head — but he doesn’t comply.
An armed black business owner mistaken for a robber was punched in the face by a white Alabama cop – after calling to report being robbed.
The situation happened nearly three months ago on March 15 but just became public due to this security clip… pic.twitter.com/zQQrfDSYHP
— Rex Chapman?? (@RexChapman) June 9, 2020
“I got you, but you need to have your gun put down,” the officer can be heard saying.
“My gun is here. I’m not going to put my gun down if you got guns,” Penn replies, even though he is not holding the gun at all, only the magazine.
“I’m telling you to put your gun down,” the officer demands.
“I have a right to have my gun! You can put your hands up. I’m going to file a complaint!” is as far as Penn gets before the officer socks him in the face, while two more white officers rush in to restrain him.
Penn suffered a broken jaw and had his teeth knocked out; he was later charged with obstruction.
Penn is suing Decatur Police Department. His lawyer Carl Cole argues he was showing the gun to police to let them know he was armed, had removed the clip and even ejected the bullet from the chamber, AL.com reported.
When asked if it was proper procedure to punch people, Chief Allen told reporters officers are trained “to use the least amount of force to get the job done.”
“I would much rather have a punch than an officer involved shooting,” he said. He also added officers are taught not to punch in the head specifically, as they tend to break their wrists.
“We need our citizens to respect the police department, and we need the police department to respect the citizens; my charge to each and every citizen is that if a police officer asks you to do a lawful… give you a lawful order, we ask that you abide by that,” he said.
If an officer asks a citizen to do something they feel is against policy, against procedure or against the law, he said, ask for a supervisor, a captain, or the Chief — him.
Explaining his first thoughts upon seeing the video for the first time, he said: “I was always taught to abide by a police officer; a police officer tells you to do something — that was legally and morally correct — then you ought to do it. Especially when it comes to weapons. By my being from Detroit, if you had a gun and a police officer approaches, you want to drop the gun and in most times, run.”
“But you never told a police officer ‘I’m not dropping my gun until you drop your gun.’ that’s not a good way to build partnerships and relationships.”
He said that when officers arrived, they were responding to reports of a robbery — which usually means armed — when in fact it was a shoplifter. They saw Penn’s hand covering a gun on the counter, and that he was reloading a magazine, so it was reasonable to assume he had already fired.
“It was a mistaken identity,” he said. “They didn’t know who the owner was versus the suspect. When you get there you see a guy with a gun in their hand, even if it’s a magazine in their hand, it still brings you a second breath.”
He said the “real blessing” of the case was that no shots were fired.
All three officers in the video are still on the force while the incident is being investigated; the officer who threw the punch is on administrative duty.