No charges will be filed against two Baton Rouge police officers in the 2016 shooting death of Alton Sterling after an investigation determined the officers acted in a “reasonable and justifiable manner,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Tuesday.
Landry’s announcement in Baton Rouge — coming 10 months after federal prosecutors determined they wouldn’t file civil rights charges against the officers — was made moments after he met Tuesday morning with Sterling’s relatives to tell them of his decision.
Members of Sterling’s family were visibly upset after meeting with Landry. Sterling’s aunt Veda Washington-Abusaleh wiped tears from her face as she left.
“They’re not going to bring charges on anybody. Why would they do that? This is white America,” Washington-Abusaleh said.
Attorneys for Sterling’s family slammed what they called a biased decision — and urged the public to hold Landry accountable.
“It takes courage … to fight for justice; we didn’t see that in this situation,” Sterling family attorney Chris Stewart said.
“But that’s fine, because … we know what the repercussion is: Getting you out of office.”
Outrage over Sterling’s death and two cell phone videos that showed the shooting led to renewed “Black Lives Matter” protests across the nation.
Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by one of two police officers who confronted him outside a convenience store in July 2016. Cell phone video showed Sterling, a black man, pinned to the ground by the white Baton Rouge police officers before he was shot; police said Sterling was shot because he was reaching for a gun.
Feds had determined shooting was reasonable
The officers were responding to a call about a man with a gun. The call was from a homeless man who said that after he approached Sterling for money, Sterling showed him the weapon.
In May 2017, federal prosecutors found there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant civil rights charges against Officers Blane Salamoni, who shot Sterling, and Howie Lake II.
The feds determined the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances — including that the two used several less-than-lethal techniques before using force; that Sterling struggled with the officers and failed to follow orders; and that video evidence couldn’t prove or disprove Salamoni’s assertion that Sterling was reaching for a gun.
Despite the federal findings, Sterling’s five children filed a wrongful death lawsuit last summer, alleging their father’s shooting violated his civil rights and fits a pattern of excessive force and racism within the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge where Sterling was shot, also sued Baton Rouge and its police department. Muflahi accused authorities of illegally taking him into custody and confiscating his security system without a warrant.
Sterling was shot on the ground
Sterling was known as the “CD man,” who sold CDs and DVDs outside the convenience store where he was shot, according to local media.
The killing gripped the nation in part because two bystander videos, each less than a minute long, captured Sterling’s struggle with the two officers.
The Department of Justice said last spring that Salamoni put a gun to Sterling’s head when Sterling refused the officers’ order to put his hands on the hood of a car. Sterling complied then but eventually he took his hands off the hood, the Justice Department said.
Lake used a Taser on Sterling, and both officers tackled him to the ground, DOJ said.
At one point, videos show, someone shouts, “He’s got a gun!” In one video, an officer draws something from his waistband and points it at Sterling. As the camera turns away, more yelling ensues, followed by loud bangs.
Afterward, the camera captures Sterling with a large bloodstain on his chest as an officer on the ground next to him keeps his gun pointed at him.
As Sterling lies fatally wounded, the other officer removes something from Sterling’s right pocket.
By Jason Hanna, CNN