A graphic cell phone video showing two officers execute a man at point blank range last week prompted immediate outrage in a Baton Rouge community. While the first video was enough to enrage the community, another video, released the Wednesday after the shooting, was absolutely horrifying. Now, according to a recent lawsuit, the surveillance video may be even worse.
The owner of the Triple S Food Market, the store Sterling was killed in front of, has since filed a lawsuit against the Baton Rouge police department for their theft of his surveillance video — without a warrant.
Abdullah Muflahi, the store’s owner, is suing Baton Rouge and its police department. Muflahi accused authorities of illegally taking him into custody and confiscating his entire security system without a warrant.
Muflahi alleges that his surveillance video was stolen and that he was illegally detained by cops for hours — for the sole act of watching them murder Alton Sterling and having it on video.
According to the Daily Beast, Muflahi claims in a lawsuit filed Monday in Baton Rouge district court that after officer Blane Salamoni killed Sterling, he immediately told responding officers Lt. Robert Cook and Officer Timothy Ballard to confiscate the “entire store security system” and detain him.
“I told them I would like to be in the store when [they took it],” Muflahi told The Daily Beast, adding that he also demanded they get a warrant for the seizure of his private property.
Instead, Cook and Ballard took away Muflahi’s cellphone (and the video on it) and locked him in the back of their car before they entered the store, the Daily Beast reports.
“I was pounding on the car window when they went into the store,” Muflahi said.
“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.
Instead of being allowed to call his friends and family, Muflahi was held in the back of a police cruiser, against his will, while cops ransacked his store.
When CNN ran the story of the lawsuit Tuesday, they claimed police had a warrant to search the store. However, according to court records, that warrant was not filed until Monday morning, after police found out they were being sued — six days after cops stole the video from Muflahi.
The lawsuit seeks damages for “false arrest, false imprisonment, the illegal taking and seizing of his security system, illegally commandeering his business,” attorney Joel Porter told The Daily Beast on Monday.
According to the Daily Beast’s report:
The warrant suggests that Cook waited five hours after he began his investigation at the Triple S Mart before applying for legal permission to search for the video. Cook submitted an affidavit to Commissioner Quintillis Lawrence at 5:23 a.m. and Lawrence authorized the warrant that very same minute, court papers show. At 5:50 a.m., Cook began his search and finished by 7 a.m., according to the warrant’s return.
Now, the only way to prove the officers are not lying about the events in their already shady timeline, is to look at the surveillance video to see if they waited for a warrant. However, cops confiscated the entire hard drive of the video — so they are the only ones with proof.
“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,” Porter told the Beast.
The warrant states that “the purpose and reason for the search is to find and seize the item(s) listed above,” referring to “Video Surveillance from the Digital Video Recorder.” It continues, “You are hearby ordered to search the aforesaid Revo Digital Video Recorder… and if the thing(s) specified are found there, to seize them and hold them in safe custody pending further orders from the court.”
When reading the warrant, Porter poses a damning question — How did police know and list the brand of the video recorder if they had to wait for a warrant before they looked at it?
“They lied in the warrant,” said Porter, calling it “laughable.”