Two people who were involved in either recording or disseminating video footage of Alton Sterling's fatal shooting by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, claim they were unlawfully detained in the days after the incident.
Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was selling CDs before he was confronted by police, filed a lawsuit on Monday claiming he was held for hours while cops seized security footage of the shooting. The lawsuit names Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, the three officers involved in Sterling's death, and the city of Baton Rouge as defendants.
In court documents, Muflahi recalls being confused when, shortly after midnight in the early hours of July 5, he saw a police vehicle pull into his store's parking lot. Sterling was subsequently shot, Tasered, tackled to the ground, and shot again "multiple times" by officers, Muflahi says, adding that he recorded the incident on his phone.
"Immediately" after Sterling was killed, the lawsuit asserts, Officer Blane Salamoni entered the Triple S and "without a warrant confiscated the entire store security system." Muflahi says he was then taken into custody,his cellphone was confiscated and he was detained in the back of a police van for four hours, meaning he was unable to call an attorney or notify his family of his whereabouts.
He claims he was denied access to his own establishment — even to use the bathroom — and was forced to relieve himself in public. He says he was then taken to Louisiana State Police headquarters, where he was held for another two hours.
The Baton Rouge Police Department directed an inquiry from VICE News to the mayor's office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Muflahi's allegations.
Chris LeDay also claims he was unlawfully detained in retaliation for helping the first video of the Sterling shooting video go viral. The woman who actually filmed the video was reportedly nervous about posting it online, so she shared it with LeDay, who lives in the Atlanta area and has a large social media following. His post was shared widely by rights groups and media outlets.
LeDay, who was born and raised in Baton Rouge, wrote on Facebook that 24 hours after he posted the video, he was confronted by at least 10 military police officers when he arrived at the Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, where he works as a contractor.
"I just made it to my job on base and I'm being detained," LeDay wrote. "They said I fit the description of someone and won't tell me anything else."
Captain Meredith Kirchoff said in statement that LeDay "was a contracted employee who was in the process of obtaining a base pass for work on the installation."
"During the routine electronic screening associated with processing his pass, it was discovered that LeDay had an active warrant for his arrest issued by local authorities," the statement said.
LeDay was "temporarily detained" by security personnel, Kirchoff said. About one hour later, the Dunwoody Police Department responded and took LeDay into custody.
LeDay said that when he arrived at the police station, he was told that he'd been arrested for outstanding parking tickets. He wrote that he had to spend the night in jail before coughing up $1,231 in fines and being released.
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