DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — On Friday, a municipal court judge in Decatur found a business owner not guilty of obstruction of justice after a bench trial.
Kevin Penn, the former owner of Star Spirits in Decatur, was charged with obstruction of justice after an incident that occurred during the robbery of his business in 2020. Penn called the police during the March 15th, 2020 robbery and shortly after they arrived, an officer punched Penn in the jaw.
Court documents explain that when officers arrived at the liquor store, they believed Penn ignored orders to put away the gun he was using to defend himself against the robber. However, Penn’s attorney – Carl Cole – said Penn had already put down the weapon prior to police even stepping inside the business.
“He takes the magazine out of the gun, he ejects the bullet from the head, from the chamber, and puts the gun on the counter,” Cole said. He added the whole scenario is visible on surveillance video, which News 19 showed viewers in 2020.
Cole said he is happy with the not-guilty verdict, but believes the charges should have been dropped.
“I strongly feel they should’ve been dropped immediately upon this,” Cole said. “You know, it’s been three years and he’s [Penn] had this case hanging over his head this whole time.”
Cole said it was clear to the officers who responded to the scene that Penn was the store owner and not the person robbing the store.
“They identified and stepped over the robber that was on the ground, who had his hands up when they went in,” Cole said. “The end result was Mr. Penn was struck in the jaw, had his jaw broken and was charged with obstruction of justice.”
The incident left Penn questioning the Decatur Police Department.
“I think you want to be able to know that you can call the police, and that’s what Kevin [Penn] articulated after the judge rendered his verdict,” Cole said. “We need to be able to trust and call our police.”
In the time between the 2020 robbery and the conclusion of the bench trial on Friday, Penn filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Decatur and the officer who was seen on video punching him. The City of Decatur was later dropped from the suit according to Penn’s attorney.
According to court documents, there will be a status conference regarding the civil lawsuit in September of 2023. The trial is tentatively set for July 2024.
Penn’s attorney told News 19 that since the incident, Penn sold Star Spirits to a different owner.