A Baton Rouge store owner, who says police detained him and confiscated his security video without a warrant in the aftermath of Alton Sterling’s death, is suing the police department.
Buzzfeed News reports that Abdullah Muflahi, owner of the Triple S Food Mart where Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot on July 5, says police took him into custody for several hours while illegally taking control of his security footage. The 28-year-old store owner filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Baton Rouge Police Department, the City of Baton Rouge, Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr., and officers Timothy Ballard and Robert Cook. Other defendants named in the suit are Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni, the two Baton Rouge policemen involved in the altercation with Sterling.
Muflahi accuses police of locking him inside a squad car for four hours and denying him access to his cell phone, which prevented him from contacting his family or a lawyer. It was only when he had to use the restroom, that police allowed him out of the vehicle. At that point, he wasn’t permitted inside the store and had to go on the side of the building where he was in full view of the public.
Soon after the Alton Sterling shooting death, law enforcement allegedly seized Muflahi’s security footage that he says recorded the encounter between the victim and police. Police also took possession of his cell phone from which he was recording the altercation.
The store owner goes on to say that he was taken to the Louisiana State Police Headquarters where he was held in a locked room for two hours until police questioned him about the incident.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 12, 2016
Muflahi had one of the videos that showed Alton Sterling’s altercation with police being captured from a different angle. In the footage, Sterling was struggling with officers while being pinned down before he was shot several times. In the aftermath, an officer is seen pulling a firearm from Sterling’s pocket.
In the days following Sterling’s death, Muflahi said police never presented him with a warrant before confiscating the surveillance video. Conversely, a spokesperson for the Baton Rouge Police Department said the department did obtain a warrant.
“They just took it. They confiscated it. I haven’t heard nothing about it,” Muflahi told BuzzFeed News. “I think it shows everything. I think we could get a lot of answers from that.”
The Baton Rouge police spokesman cannot comment on pending lawsuit.
Muflahi was inside the store when the altercation between police and Sterling occurred. The Advocate reports that there was a warrant filed by the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office five hours after Sterling was shot and signed by Commissioner Quintillis Lawrence. Joel Porter, one of the attorneys representing Muflahi, said officers never provided his client with a copy of the search warrant for the surveillance video. Additionally, the warrant didn’t apply to the store owner’s personal cell phone, which he says it was taken without Muflahi’s permission. The device was later returned to his client after questioning.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 7, 2016
Muflahi had known Sterling for several years, whom he allowed to sell CDs and DVDs at his store.
The state is investigating the death of Alton Sterling. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said the U.S. Department of Justice is leading a criminal investigation. The FBI and state police are also on the case. A federal civil rights investigation will be conducted as well.
[Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Image]