Abdullah Muflahi, the convenience store owner who captured Alton Sterling’s death on video, said police stole the surveillance video from his store, took his cell phone and locked him in a police car for four hours.
Muflahi owns the Baton Rouge Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was killed, and has filed a lawsuit with the Baton Rouge district court.
On July 5, Sterling, a 37-year-old black father of five, was approached, tackled and wrestled onto the hood of a car and then the pavement by two police officers around 12:35 am. The officers pinned Sterling on the ground then yelled that he had a gun and proceed to fire five shots at Sterling, who was hit once in the chest and once in the back.
In a 42-second cell phone video taken by Muflahi, one of the two officers takes a gun from Sterling’s right pocket, disputing earlier reports that Sterling had pulled the gun on the officers.
According to the lawsuit filed by Muflahi, police took surveillance equipment and video from the Triple S Food Mart without a warrant, as well as his cell phone with the video of the shooting. He says he was then locked in the back of a police car for four hours.
“I felt like a criminal at the time, and there’s one of the detectives that I knocked on the window and told him it was really hot and I asked if I could sit outside by the car. And he just got really angry and started saying ‘you need to chill the f*** out until we get this because we’re handling something right now,’” Muflahi told the Daily News.
“It wasn’t right and I shouldn’t have been treated like I was the one who shot the guy. They didn’t handcuff me or read me any rights. They just put me in the back of a car. The seat was really hot and it felt like I was sitting on hot coals.”
Muflahi also claims he wasn’t allowed to use the restroom inside his store, but was instead forced to relieve himself on the side of the building with an officer escort. The store owner said he was then taken to police headquarters where he spent two hours and was not allowed to call his parents or lawyer.
“Not only did Sterling lose his life, but my client lost his liberty,” Joel Porter, Muflahi’s attorney, told the Daily News. “They act like this is a police state, like it’s North Korea, like they can do this without impunity.”
Muflahi’s lawsuit is seeking damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, the illegal taking and seizing of his security system and illegally commandeering his business. Officers Blane Salamoni, Howie Lake, Robert Cook and Timothy Ballard, as well as the city of Baton Rouge and Police Chief Carl Dabadi are all named in the suit.
“This was done in order to intimidate my client,” Porter told the News. “They did not want him to tell the truth.”