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 before one of the 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
During a press conference on Monday afternoon, Decatur police showed body cam footage of the incident in which the police officer told Penn to lower his weapon, and Penn refused.
Allen has defended the actions of his police officers, though he did confirm that the officer 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 Officer Punched Him; He Suffered a Broken Jaw From the Incident, His Lawyer Says
Following the altercation with police, 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, according to his lawyer. 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 police to arrive.
According to 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. Penn has not yet spoken out publicly about his experience.