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A Key Witness Is Suing the Cops Who Killed Alton Sterling

Abdullah Muhlafi says that the cops seized his security footage without a warrant and kept him locked in a police cruiser for hours.

by VICE Staff
Jul 11 2016, 10:27pm

A memorial for Alton Sterling outside the convenience store where he was shot. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

The owner of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store outside of which Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police last week has said all along that the man wasn't reaching for his gun when he died, and that cops were "aggressive" from the start of the interaction. Now he has fresh allegations against the police: that they detained him for hours in a cruiser and took surveillance footage from his security cameras without his consent and before they had a warrant.

On Monday, the Daily Beast reported that the owner, Abdullah Muhlafi, was suing four individual cops, the city of Baton Rouge, and the police chief over his experience. He claims the officers took him into custody immediately after the fatal shooting, and went into his store to take his security system—even though they didn't have a warrant for it. The cops filed a search warrant with the county clerk on Monday, which had apparently been authorized in the hours after the shooting six days before. "The timeline definitely doesn't add up," Muhlafi's attorney told the Beast.

They then put the witness into the back of a cop car for four hours, he says, letting him out only to go to the bathroom—and even then, they allegedly made him pee outside of his store while an officer looked on.

The cops seized Muhlafi's cell phone but apparently returned it later, and the owner gave the Beast footage of the incident that appears to show Sterling wasn't reaching for his gun when he was shot multiple times on the ground. (The officers themselves maintain that they were justified in shooting the man, who was restrained, and that he was in fact reaching for his gun.)

It's unclear who has watched the security camera footage, or if it has been passed along to the feds, who are investigating the incident. There is also daschcam video from a police cruiser that has likewise gone unseen by the public. The other cameras present—the cops' body cams—fell off during the scuffle, according to the police, but that allegedly unusable video hasn't been released. Protests over the weekend in Baton Rouge led to the cops arresting dozens of people while wearing full riot gear.