Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, was fatally shot by police officers on Tuesday evening in Baton Rouge, La. while being pinned on the pavement by two police officers.
According to a statement from the Baton Rouge Police Department, officers were responding to a disturbance call from someone who reported that “a black male who was selling music cd’s and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun.”
The statement continues in the passive voice: “An altercation between Sterling and the officers ensued. Sterling was shot during the altercation and died at the scene.”
In a cellphone video of the shooting which surfaced on social media on Tuesday, you can see an officer tackle Sterling outside a convenience store and force him to the ground; the other officer pins his head to the pavement and puts his arm around his back. One officer shouts, “He’s got a gun,” and the other takes out his weapon and shoots, while Sterling is immobile, at least twice into the man’s head and chest.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William “Beau” Clark said an autopsy indicated that Sterling’s death was a homicide caused by multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
The two officers have been put on administrative leave, a standard move in this situation. The department’s spokesperson Cpl. L’Jean McKneely told The Advocate that officers were usually given “a day or so to go home and think about it” before being interviewed.
The shooting comes just over a month after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a “Blue Lives Matter” bill into law, which legally protects police officers under hate-crime law—the first legislation of its kind in the country.
Warning: This video depicts graphic violence.
State Rep. Denise Marcelle was reportedly told by Police Chief Carl Dabadie that “body cameras worn by both officers fell off during the incident and do not show the shooting.” However, footage was taken by the squad car’s dashboard camera.
“I share in this anger and join the community in pursuit of justice,” said Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond in a statement. “I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident. The cause of justice requires state and local law enforcement to join in this request as soon as possible.”
“I ask the leaders and citizens of Baton Rouge to join me in demonstrating our anger with dignity and demanding proper focus on our cause with perseverance. His family and the citizens of Baton Rouge—especially the citizens of North Baton Rouge—deserve answers and that is what we will seek in a fair, thorough, and transparent way.”
Throughout the evening, protesters gathered at the convenience store, shouting “Black lives matter” and holding signs reading “honk for justice,” according to NBC News. The hashtag #AltonSterling began trending on Twitter.
Sandra Sterling, Alton’s aunt who had raised him like a son, said to the Washington Post, “All I want is justice for my child. I want the same treatment y’all are giving that person in Marksville that killed that little white baby,” referring to a police shooting of a white six-year-old in November, which resulted in two Louisiana cops being charged with murder. “I want that same kind of justice.”
Image via Screenshot.