Kevin Penn is a 47-year-old black business owner who called police to stay his store had been robbed, only to be mistaken for the robber when a white Alabama cop showed up. The incident was caught on video, and has since gone viral.
The video went public on Monday evening, but the incident in question took place on March 15. In the video, Penn can be seen having an argument with two white police officers, then one of the police officers steps forward and punches Penn in the face. A third police officer appears, and the three of them struggle to get Penn under their control.
Penn owns Star Spirits & Beverages, a liquor store on Sixth Avenue in Decatur in north Alabama. Decatur police Chief Nate Allen said his officers punched Penn because they thought he was the robber.
Here’s what you need to know:
WATCH: Penn Is Mistaken for a Robber & Punched in the Face; Bodycam Footage Below
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
During a press conference on Monday afternoon, Decataur police showed body cam footage of the incident, in which the white Alabama cop told Penn to lower his weapon, and Penn refused.
Chief Allen has defended the actions of his police officers, though he did confirm that the white cop who punched Penn has been put on desk duty pending a full investigation of the incident. Allen also said his department has been investigating the incident since the day after it happened.
Per AL.com, Allen said, “I would much rather have a punch than an officer-involved shooting.”
Penn Was Arrested After the Cop Punched Him; He Suffered a Broken Jaw From the Incident, His Lawyer Says
After calling the police to report a robbery on his own story, Penn was handcuffed and arrested for obstructing governmental operations. Per court records, the officers said he was preventing them from investigating the robbery.
Penn also suffered long term physical injuries from the incident. He had a broken jaw, his lawyer says, and had to undergo several weeks of treatment, which included getting his jaw wired shut. His lawyer also pointed out that it was Penn who called the police and asked for help, and who had apprehended a shoplifter and was waiting for them to arrive.
Per AL.com, Penn’s lawyer 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 to make it clear to them he wasn’t dangerous.
Now, many people online are calling out what they claim to be racism and police brutality, with several users wondering if Penn would have been punched, or mistaken as the robber, if he was white. “Alabama police punched & arrested a black business owner who reported a robbery,” one person tweeted. “This happened in March and the only reason you are hearing about it is because like the other videos this was leaked. His jaw was broke and some of his teeth. We can’t afford to have bad cops.”
Still others are looking for ways to support Penn and his shop. A GoFundMe has not yet been created. Penn has not yet spoken out publicly about his experience.