DECATUR, Ala. – Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen says a Decatur police officer who punched a store owner while responding to a robbery wasn’t sure if the owner was a threat to the officers’ safety.
Allen played body camera footage Monday afternoon from one of the officers involved in the March 15 incident at Star Beverage, showing a different angle to the video posted on Facebook Sunday night.
That video Sunday night shows the owner of the store being punched by one Decatur officer before all three that were inside the business grab him.
Allen said the officers were responding to a robbery call that night at the store. In the video posted on Facebook, Allen said you can see the store owner was loading rounds into a magazine. The gun was nearby on a table, he said.
“The officers didn’t see that,” Allen said. “The only thing they saw when they got there is the gun on the counter and he had something still in his hand, and he said ‘I’m not going to put my gun down,’ so that gives the impression to the officer that he still has a gun in his hand.”
Allen called the incident a case of mistaken identity and said his officers are trained to use the least amount of force possible to resolve a situation.
“I would much rather have a punch than an officer-involved shooting,” he said.
The store owner filed a formal complaint the next day, the police chief said, and he also plans to sue.
Allen said it could have been avoided if the store owner had listened to the officers’ commands when they arrived.
“I was always taught to abide by a police officer,” Allen said. “If A police officer tells you to do something that was legally and morally correct, then you are to do it – especially when it comes to weapons.”
Police did arrest one person for shoplifting.
The incident is still under investigation in the department, Allen said. The officer who threw the punch is currently on administrative duties, he said, and the other two are on regular duty.
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