Owner of Baton Rouge store where Alton Sterling was killed sues police
Alton Sterling was killed last Tuesday in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after police responded to a 911 call alleging he had pulled a gun on a homeless man. Bystanders captured on camera the moment officers shot and killed Sterling as he was pinned to the ground.
Triple S owner Abdullah Muflahi also captured the incident on his security camera. In a lawsuit he filed Monday in Baton Rouge district court, Muflahi claims the police confiscated not just the camera footage, but the entire security system, without a proper warrant. Police also took his cell phone and kept him detained for over four hours, the store owner says in the lawsuit.
Muflahi is seeking damages for “false arrest, false imprisonment, the illegal taking and seizing of his security system, illegally commandeering his business,” his attorney Joel Porter told The Daily Beast on Monday.
After shooting Sterling, Officer Blane Salamoni instructed the responding officers – named in the lawsuit as Lieutenant Robert Cook and Officer Timothy Ballard – to seize the “entire store security system” and detain the owner, Muflahi claims. The complaint names as defendants Salamoni, his partner Howie Lake, officers Cook and Ballard, the city of Baton Rouge, and Police Chief Carl Dabadi.
Muflahi was particularly incensed that the police would not let him call a lawyer or his parents, and only let him out of the vehicle to relieve himself.
“The officers would not allow Mr. Muflahi to use the restroom inside of his business establishment and he was escorted to the side of his building and forced to relieve himself right there within arm distance of a BPRD officer and in full view of the public,” the lawsuit states, according to the Daily Beast.
Baton Rouge PD spokesman, Corporal L'Jean McKneely, says the department’s standard procedure is not to comment on pending litigation.
The police did produce a search warrant for Triple S, signed by Commissioner Quintillis Lawrence. Court documents show Cook submitting an affidavit to Lawrence at 5:23 a.m. – almost five hours after the shooting – and getting instant approval, the Beast reported. According to police documents, the search began at 5:50 a.m. and ended at 7 a.m.
However, Porter says the timeline in the document “doesn’t add up.” Because the police have seized not just the video recording of the fatal incident, but the hard drive itself, it is impossible to challenge their account – or provide the footage to Sterling’s relatives, who have requested its release.
“The warrant gives the Baton Rouge Police Department the authority to search the surveillance video on recording device, it doesn’t give them the authority to seize the device,” Muflahi’s attorney said, pointing out that the warrant also names the specific brand of the video recorder – something the officers could not have known, unless the equipment had been seized already.
Muflahi has criticized the police for going after Sterling, saying that the CD peddler has his permission to do business in the store’s parking lot.