Body-cam footage shows officer punching Alabama store owner who called 911 to report robbery

A black business owner armed with a gun was mistaken for a robbery suspect when a police officer punched him in the face, Decatur police Chief Nate Allen said today.
The situation happened nearly three months ago on March 15 but has become public now because of a surveillance video clip released on social media over the weekend. The video shows a police officer walk into Star Spirits & Beverages, a liquor store on Sixth Avenue in Decatur in north Alabama, and immediately punch the owner, 47-year-old Kevin Penn.
Penn says he called police that day to report his store had been robbed and that he was holding the suspect at gunpoint.
Allen said because police were called to investigate a robbery and Penn was armed, they believed he might have been the suspect.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Decatur police played body camera video, in which an officer can be heard telling Penn to put down his gun and Penn refusing to do so.
Police did not release copies of the footage but let news reporters watch and record a screen on which the footage was aired. The footage, which was edited with captions and delayed at some points, doesn’t appear to clearly show what happened.
Penn moved his hand over a gun lying on a counter next to him, said Allen. The chief said the man was holding a magazine in his other hand, which police at the time may have believed to be a gun.
As Penn appears to be refusing to put down a gun, an officer walks in and immediately punches him in the face, the body camera video shows. 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.
Asked today whether the punch amounted to excessive force, Allen said officers should use the “least amount of force necessary to get the job done.”
Many cases involving an armed suspect end with police shooting the person, he said.
“I would much rather have a punch than an officer-involved shooting,” the chief said.
As a result of the punch, Penn suffered a broken jaw and some of his teeth were knocked out, his lawyer, Carl Cole, told Penn underwent several weeks of treatment, including having his mouth wired shut, his lawyer said.
Penn was taken to the ground, handcuffed and arrested on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing governmental operations. Police accused him of obstructing their investigation of the robbery, according to court records.
But police today said rather than a robbery, a simple shoplifting had taken place at Penn’s store. Body camera video appeared to show the suspected shoplifter lying on the ground inside the store. Police say a shoplifting suspect was arrested that day, but they haven’t released the person’s name or charges.
Penn himself called police that day, according to his lawyer, and had already solved the case, as he was armed and holding the suspect for police.
In the surveillance video posted on social media, Penn is seen carrying a gun and later appears to motion toward the officers just before they enter the store. The surveillance video posted online doesn’t include any audio.
Cole said Penn showed the gun to the officers to make sure they knew he was armed, then took out the clip and ejected the bullet from the chamber.
In court records obtained by, Decatur police Officer J. Rippen wrote that Penn “refused to obey lawful commands to put down and back away from a firearm while officers were attempting to investigate a robbery.”
When spoke with Penn by phone this morning, he referred questions to his lawyer, citing the ongoing criminal case. Cole said Penn will make a public statement in the coming days.
Penn has filed an internal affairs complaint with the police department and handed over surveillance video from his store, Cole said, but the city hasn’t responded to his request for information about the status of the investigation.
Allen said today that he doesn’t know when the ongoing investigation will be finished. has requested police reports and other records related to the case, including the personnel files of the officer who punched Penn and all unedited body camera video of the incident.
The chief said he chose to show a portion of body camera footage today in an effort to be transparent with the public.
“We wanted to show that because one thing I strive to do is build relationships with this community,” Allen said. “We need to be very transparent; we need to be very open. But most of all, we need our citizens to respect the police department and we need the police department to respect the citizens.”
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