Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man was shot and killed by Baton Rouge Police Department officers on Tuesday, July 5, prompting discussions on police killings of African-Americans.
The shooting was captured on video and circulated through many forms of media. The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation on Wednesday after the video was seen on social media and television. The video contains graphic content, with Governor John Bel Edwards calling it “disturbing, to say the least,” and activists, such as members of the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for reform in the United States. The incident has resulted in increased debate on police treatment of African Americans as well as protests demanding change.
Chris LeDay, the first person to post the video online, was later arrested by police.
On Tuesday, a person called the police to report a black man in a red shirt selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart had threatened him with a gun. The video shot by a bystander depicts a white officer pushing Sterling onto the hood of the car and then tackling him to the ground. Both officers held him to the pavement as one appears to hold a gun above Sterling’s chest. During the video, someone can be heard saying, “He’s got a gun! Gun!”
Another video of the shooting, filmed by the owner of the store, depicts a different angle of the shooting, showing one of the officers take something out of Sterlng’s pocket after he was shot.
Officials have identified officers as Blane Salamoni, a member of the force for four years, and Howie Lake II, a member for three years. Both have been placed on administrative leave.
Federal takeover of the case was encouraged. There are multiple videos which may provide a further look into Sterling’s death, Lieutenant Jonny Dunnam, a police spokesperson, said at a news conference. According to Dunnam, the body cameras worn by the officers became dislodged, possibly making that footage not as valuable.
Sterling had a criminal history which included convictions for battery, domestic abuse, carnal knowledge of a teenager, and illegal possession of a gun.
Leroy Tackno, 60, manager of the Living Waters Outreach Ministry transitional housing center, where Sterling lived, spoke on the videos depicting Sterling’s killing, citing that Sterling had never caused any problems.
“I’m just trying to figure out what did he do. All he did was sell CDs.”