In the moments after shooting and killing Alton Sterling in front of a convenience store where he had been selling CDs, Baton Rouge police entered the business and began confiscating all surveillance footage that may have captured the incident.
They also seized Abdullah Muflahi’s cell phone that had recorded the shooting, before handcuffing him and placing him in the back of a patrol car.
They did all this without a warrant, which is illegal.
On Monday, Muflahi, who owns the Triple S Food Mart, filed a lawsuit against the Baton Rouge Police Department, which you can read here.
The suit states that Muflahi was inside his store, watching his surveillance monitors when he spotted a Baton Rouge police car pulling into his parking lot.
He stepped out to greet them, apparently realizing they were not there to make any purchases, which was when they started talking to Sterling, who was selling CDs in front of the store with Muflahi’s permission as he had done for some time.
Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salomoni and Howie Lake – who have a history of use of force complaints against them – began an altercation with Sterling where they began tasering him, according to the lawsuit.
They then knocked him to the ground, which was when Muflahi began recording. Another witness had also started recording from inside a car moments earlier.
Salomoni shot Sterling several times in the chest after Lake yelled out “gun!”, apparently after feeling a gun in Sterling’s pocket.
Baton Rouge police claim they were responding to a 911 from a man accusing Sterling of pulling a gun on them, but they have refused to release a recording of that call. Also, if they suspected he had a gun, they probably would have ordered him to lay down at gunpoint rather than wrestle him to the ground.
Instead, they both reacted with surprise when they realized he had a gun, resulting in him being shot dead.
After Sterling was shot, lying on his back with a gaping bullet wound to his chest, Lake reaches into Sterling’s front pocket and pulls out what appears to be small handgun as Salomoni yells at him to get on the ground. The video ends moments later.
That was when the two cops stormed into the store and began dismantling his security system, not even pretending to need a warrant, according to the lawsuit.
They also seized his phone and placed him handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. More cops arrived as Muflahi remained cuffed in the car, doing their part to remove the cameras and monitors from the store.
Four hours later, they drove him to Louisiana state police headquarters where he was detained for another two hours before releasing him.
“After being illegally detained for better than 6 hours and after BRPD finished questioning Mr. Muflahi, his phone was returned to him,” Joel Porter, one of Muflahi’s attorneys, told Photography is Not a Crime in an email.
And as we reported Sunday, the man who posted the video recorded by the other witness was arrested on fabricated charges.
A video containing footage from both videos is below along with an embed of the lawsuit. The surveillance video, however, is still in their possession.