HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The open records request filed by WHNT News 19 to learn more about the officer and his past was denied by the City of Decatur.
WHNT News 19 is working to find out more about the viral video which shows a business owner being punched by a Decatur police officer and then arrested.
The open records request asked for the officer’s name, the date he was put on leave, any previous citizen complaints, and any previous disciplinary action. The city clerk’s office says because of pending litigation, that public information cannot be released
Members of the Decatur City Council are also calling the viral video disturbing.
Decatur police addressed the viral video on Monday that shows a black business owner being punched by an officer and arrested.
The incident occurred in March, after the business owner called police to respond to a robbery at his business, but it wasn’t brought the public’s attention until a video began circling on social media this past weekend.
During the news conference, WHNT News 19 was told that the officer in question was on administrative duty, but it was not clear for how long, or when it began.
In the surveillance camera footage, you can see the owner of Star Spirits & Beverages, Kevin Penn, interacting with Decatur police officers.
Penn’s attorney, Carl Cole, says his client’s jaw was broken and he lost several teeth in the encounter. Penn filed a formal complaint the day after the incident.
Police Chief Nate Allen said Monday that officers were unsure if Penn had a gun in his hand.
Surveillance video shows Penn placed a gun and magazine on the counter and was empty-handed when the officer struck him.
WHNT News 19 reached out to all members of the Decatur City Council for comment, and received two responses: one from City Council President Paige Bibbee and one from Councilman Charles Kirby, who represents District 4.
Both declined to go on camera, but did speak about the incident.
Bibbee said she is doing more research, but based on the video from social media that she saw, the incident looked “deeply disturbing and deeply disappointing.”
She told WHNT News 19 that she plans to look at body camera footage and try to gain a better understanding of the incident, but added she has faith in Chief Allen and his ability to handle the situation.
Councilman Kirby also called the circulating video “disturbing.” He said regarding the insinuation between a shoplift or a robbery, either way, it should not change how someone is treated, and people need to be supporting business owners.
Kirby also said that someone who is not threatening someone else, should not be struck.
WHNT News 19 is also looking into the background of the officer in question, but his identity has not been released.
We asked DPD how long he has been on administrative leave, and if there were any prior complaints against him. Decatur Police Public Information Liaison Emme Long said the answers to both questions were part of the personnel investigation, and could not be released.
Penn’s attorney says he plans on releasing the full 16 minutes of surveillance video turned over to police in the coming days. He is also calling on police to publicly release the audio and video of all three officer’s body cameras.