Black store owner reports robbery, gets punched by officer

Police say an armed black business owner who called to report a robbery in his store in Alabama was punched in the face by a responding police officer who mistook him for a suspect

DECATUR, Ala. -- An armed black business owner who called to report a robbery in his store in Alabama was punched in the face by a responding police officer who mistook him for a suspect, police said.

After the March 15 altercation, Kevin Penn, owner of Star Spirits & Beverages in Decatur, suffered a broken jaw, his teeth were knocked out and he needed to get his mouth wired shut, his lawyer, Carl Cole told AL.com.

Surveillance video of the interaction started circulating on social media over the weekend. Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen held a news conference Monday to show footage of the altercation and to be “transparent” with the public, news outlets reported.

The body camera video shows responding officers coming into the store and the suspect, later identified to be a person involved in an alleged shoplifting at Penn’s store, lying on the ground.

An officer walks past the suspect and tells Penn to put down his weapon. Penn refuses saying, “I have a right to have my gun." Allen said that’s when Penn moved his hand over a gun lying on a counter next to him.

“We do know there was a gun there, we do know that the magazines were there, we do know that he was reloading the magazine,” Allen said at the news conference.

Penn's lawyer said his client previously told police he was holding the suspect at gunpoint and had showed his gun to let them know he was armed. Penn had also removed the clip and ejected the bullets from the weapon, Cole added. The video shows Penn telling officers he’s going to file a complaint as they came close to him.

The body camera footage doesn’t clearly show what happens next, but surveillance video from the store shows an officer punching Penn and being joined by two other officers to wrestle him to the ground. He was arrested on a charge of obstructing a robbery investigation, according to court records.

The name of the officer who punched Penn has not been released. He has been placed on desk duty while the department investigates the altercation, the police chief said. The identity of the shoplifting suspect was also not released.

Penn filed a complaint with the police department over the altercation but has not been given an update on the status of the investigation, his lawyer said. The police chief also added Monday he doesn’t know when the investigation, which started in March, will conclude.