A Black liquor store owner in Decatur, Alabama has sued the white police officer in federal court. He claims in the lawsuit that the officer who responded to a robbery punched him in the face, which broke his jaw on March 2020, according to the Associated Press.
The owner, Kevin Penn, is also suing the city of Decatur, along with the officer, Justin Rippen.
The lawsuit alleges that the incident is an example of the systemic use of excessive force by the Decatur Police Department. The lawsuit also alleges that Penn’s constitutional rights were violated by illegal seizure and false arrest.
Penn, who is also seeking monetary damages, is accusing officers in Decatur of using charges like obstructing governmental operation, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest against local citizens regularly.
The lawsuit states, “It is well known in the Decatur legal community that Decatur officers frequently use these charges, commonly referred to as POP (p—- off police) charges, without a legal basis,” according to the Associated Press.
More from the Associated Press on what allegedly occurred during the liquor store incident:
Penn had trapped a shoplifter with an electronic lock and the suspect was lying on the ground, with Penn holding him at gunpoint. Surveillance video shows Penn unloading his gun as police arrive. The video appears to show Penn setting the gun magazine down as the officers approach.
An officer walked past the suspect and told Penn to put down his weapon. Penn refused saying, “I have a right to have my gun,” according to body camera video.
But police said in 2020 they believed Penn was reloading the gun. An officer, who has been identified as Rippen, then appears to punch Penn. Rippen and two other officers wrestled Penn to the ground and handcuffed him, the video shows. Penn was arrested and charged with obstructing a robbery investigation.
Penn’s jaw was wired shut for six weeks as he recovered from the incident Meanwhile. officer Rippen was not disciplined and no investigation was started until the video became public three months after it happened, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit claims that the city officials did nothing to ensure that officers were trained and supervised properly and that they were unaware of the unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests and use of force that local citizens were subjected to.