Killing of Alton Sterling

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On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot and killed by two Baton Rouge Police Department officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The officers, who were attempting to control Sterling's arms, shot Sterling to death, which was preceded by Salamoni threatening Sterling with his gun before Sterling was restrained, yelling that he would "shoot [Sterling] in the fucking head" if he moved.[5] Police alleged that Sterling had reached for the loaded handgun in his pants pocket.[6] Police were responding to a report that Sterling was selling CDs and that he had used a gun to threaten a man outside a convenience store.[7] The owner of the store where the shooting occurred said that Sterling was "not the one causing trouble" during the situation that led to the police being called.[8][9] The shooting was recorded by multiple bystanders.

Killing of Alton Sterling
Sterling during altercation
DateJuly 5, 2016 (2016-07-05)
Time12:35 a.m.
Duration90 seconds
Location2112 North Foster Drive, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Coordinates30°28′05″N 91°08′22″W / 30.4680°N 91.13954°W / 30.4680; -91.13954
TypeHomicide by shooting, police killing
Filmed byBystander's mobile phone and security [cctv] cameras
ParticipantsHowie Lake II, Blane Salamoni (officers)
OutcomeSalamoni fired in 2017
DeathsAlton Sterling
LitigationLawsuit against city of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge Police Department and officers[3] settled for $4.5 million[4]

The shooting led to protests in Baton Rouge and a request for a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. In May 2017 they decided not to file criminal charges against the police officers involved. In response, Louisiana's attorney general, Jeff Landry, said the state of Louisiana would open an investigation into the shooting once the Department of Justice released the physical evidence. In March 2018, Landry's office announced it would not bring charges against the officers[10] stating that they acted in a "reasonable and justifiable manner".[2]

In February 2021, nearly five years after the shooting, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved a $4.5 million settlement for the family of Alton Sterling to settle a wrongful death suit.[11] The family accepted the settlement a few months later and the case was closed.[12][13]

Parties involved edit

Alton Sterling edit

Alton Sterling (June 14, 1979 – July 5, 2016) was known locally in Baton Rouge as "CD Man".[8] He had a criminal record that included violent offenses, and had been sentenced to serve 5 years following a 2009 incident that stated he had resisted arrest. During a struggle with the arresting officer in 2009, a "black semi auto gun fell from his waistband".[14]

Police edit

The police officers involved in the shooting were Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni. Lake had three years of law enforcement experience; Salamoni had four. Lake was subsequently placed on a department-mandated leave. He was also involved in a previous shooting of an African American male, where the fleeing suspect crashed his car into a house and then began firing at the six officers pursuing him. The police returned fire, injuring the man in the torso.[15][16] Salamoni and Lake had both been previously investigated and cleared by their department for allegedly having used excessive force.[17]

Shooting edit

The Triple S Food Market in Baton Rouge, where Sterling was shot by the Baton Rouge Police

At 12:35 a.m., at 2112 North Foster Drive in the parking lot of Triple S Food Mart, Sterling was detained by Baton Rouge Police Department officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake. This came after an anonymous caller reported that a man was threatening him and waving a handgun while in the process of selling CDs.[18][19] When Sterling refused to cooperate, the officers tasered Sterling for resisting several times,[20][21] then forced Sterling to the hood of a sedan and then to the ground to subdue him. Sterling was pinned to the ground by both officers; one kneeling on his chest and the other on his thigh, both attempting unsuccessfully to control his arms.[20]

As Sterling's right hand remained free, Salamoni exclaimed, "He's going into his pockets! He's got a gun! Gun!" Lake, pointing his gun, yelled, "Hey bro, if you fucking move, I swear to God!" Then Salamoni was heard on the video saying, "Lake, he's going for the gun!" The camera caught Salamoni firing three shots, panning away while three more shots were fired before panning back to show Sterling's body sprawled out. Lake was not in the picture and Salamoni was about 3 feet (0.9 m) away, with his gun drawn and pointed at Sterling, who had a gunshot wound in his chest. Sterling was shot a total of six times all within close range.[22] The officers retrieved a loaded .38 caliber revolver from Sterling's front pants pocket.[23][24] The officers then radioed for Emergency Medical Services.[23]

According to Parish Coroner William Clark of East Baton Rouge, a preliminary autopsy, on July 5, indicated that Sterling had died from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and back.[25]

Multiple bystanders' cell phones captured videos of the shooting as well as store surveillance cameras and officer body cameras.[26] One of the bystander's videos was filmed by a group called "Stop the Killing", which listens to police scanners and films crimes in progress. They also listen to police interactions in an effort to reduce violence in the community.[27] A second video was made available the day after the shooting by the store owner and eyewitness,[21][28] who said in a statement to NBC News, "Sterling never wielded the gun or threatened the officers."[21]

The owner of the store where the shooting occurred said that Sterling had started carrying a gun a few days prior to the event as other CD vendors had been robbed recently. He also said that Sterling was "not the one causing trouble" during the situation that led to the police being called.[8][9]

In March 2018, the bodycam footage from the officer who shot him was released, revealing that, seconds after arriving to help the other officer already engaged in trying to detain Sterling, he pulled his gun and threatened to "shoot [Sterling] in the fucking head" if he moved.[29]

Aftermath and reactions edit

Second memorial for Alton Sterling near the Triple S Food Mart

On the night of July 5, more than 100 demonstrators in Baton Rouge shouted "no justice, no peace", set off fireworks, and blocked an intersection to protest Sterling's death.[30] Flowers and messages were left at the place of his death. The police cleared a crowd of about 200 people as organizers announced they would regroup in front of City Hall.[31]

On July 6, Black Lives Matter held a candlelight vigil in Baton Rouge, with chants of "We love Baton Rouge", and calling for justice.[32]

Speaking shortly after the shootings of Sterling and Philando Castile, President Barack Obama did not comment on the specific incidents. Obama called upon the U.S. to "do better". He also said "Americans should feel outraged at episodes of police brutality since they're rooted in long-simmering racial discord."[33][34]

On July 7, a protest was held in Dallas, Texas, relating to this shooting of Sterling and Castile on July 6. At the end of the peaceful protest, Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire in an ambush, killing five police officers and wounding eleven others including two civilians. Johnson was then cornered in a defensible location in El Centro College Building B, and hours later, July 8, he was killed by a robot-delivered bomb.

Also, on July 7, the FBI's New Orleans field office issued a warning about "threats to law enforcement and potential threats to the safety of the general public", stemming from the death of Sterling.[35]

Following the shootings of Sterling, Castile, and Dallas police officers, the Bahamian government issued a travel advisory. Bahamian citizens were told to use caution when traveling to the U.S. due to racial tensions. They specifically advised that young men use "extreme caution" when interacting with police, to be non-confrontational and cooperative.[36][37] Similar advisories were issued by the governments of United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, days later.[38][39]

On July 8, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent issued a statement strongly condemning Sterling and Castile's killings. Human rights expert Ricardo A. Sunga III, the current Chair of the United Nations panel, stated that the killings demonstrate "a high level of structural and institutional racism". Adding that "The United States is far from recognizing the same rights for all its citizens. Existing measures to address racist crimes motivated by prejudice are insufficient and have failed to stop the killings."[40]

On July 9, a protest in Baton Rouge turned violent, with one police officer having several teeth knocked out and eight firearms (including three rifles, three shotguns, and two pistols) being confiscated. The New Black Panther Party members were also present.[41] Police arrested 102 people.[42]

On July 10, between 30 and 40 people were also arrested.[43]

Professor Peniel E. Joseph, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, said that "the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile evoke the past spectacle of lynching and that for change to happen, Americans must confront the pain of black history".[44]

On July 11, a home in Baton Rouge was raided in connection with a pawn shop burglary in which seven or eight guns and ammunition were stolen. Three people were arrested during the raid, one of whom said the group was planning on using the stolen firearms to shoot police officers at protests.[45]

On July 13, local organizing groups and the American Civil Liberties Union's Louisiana branch, filed a lawsuit against the Baton Rouge Police Department for violating the First Amendment rights of demonstrators. They claim they were protesting peacefully against Sterling's death.[46]

On July 17, Gavin Eugene Long shot and killed three police officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge. Long was killed at the scene during a shootout with responding officers. The shooting has been linked to the nationwide tension over race and policing, with the event happening days after Sterling's death in the same city.[47][48]

Investigation edit

Louisiana U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond said that the footage of Sterling's shooting is "deeply troubling" and called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the man's death.[49] Governor John Bel Edwards announced on July 6, that the Department of Justice would launch an investigation.[50]

The United States Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation on July 7, 2016.[51] On May 2, 2017, it was subsequently announced the department would not bring charges against the officers involved.[52][53]

After the Department of Justice announced that it would not charge the 2 officers, Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry announced that the state of Louisiana would begin an investigation. In a statement, Landry wrote "The USDOJ’s review of this matter was to determine violations of federal law: specifically, federal civil rights laws. To date, this matter has not been investigated or reviewed for possible violations of the Louisiana Criminal Code. Therefore, this matter now needs to be investigated for possible state criminal violations."

An autopsy report released in March 2018 indicated that Sterling had been shot six times, striking his heart, lung, esophagus and liver. The cause of death was ruled a homicide. The toxicology report showed that at the time of the shooting, Sterling had drugs in his system. Landry said this affected Sterling’s behavior during the deadly encounter.[54] On March 27, Landry's office announced it would not bring charges against the officers[10] stating that they acted in a "reasonable and justifiable manner".[2] On March 30, officer Salamoni was fired for violating use of force policies, and Lake was suspended for three days for losing his temper.[55]

In August 2019, Baton Rouge officials reached a settlement with Blane Salamoni, who appealed his termination. They agreed to overturn his firing and retroactively let him resign without any compensation or back pay.[56]

In February 2021 the East Baton Rouge Metro Council approved a $4.5 million settlement for the family of Alton Sterling to settle a wrongful death suit. The trial of the wrongful death suit was scheduled to begin March 1, 2021. The Council rejected a $5M settlement in November 2020.[11]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Steve Almasy; Holly Yan; Jamiel Lynch; Eric Levenson (May 3, 2017). "No federal charges against officers in Alton Sterling death". CNN.
  2. ^ a b c Hanna, Jason (March 27, 2018). "No charges to be filed in Alton Sterling death, Louisiana attorney general". CNN.
  3. ^ "SC lawmaker-attorney hired to represent family of Alton Sterling".
  4. ^ "Family of Alton Sterling accepts $4.5 million settlement nearly 5 years after he was killed by police". USA Today.
  5. ^ Chavez, Nicole (March 31, 2018). "Body camera shows officer threatened to shoot Alton Sterling within seconds". CNN.
  6. ^ "Alton Sterling's relatives weather scrutiny, call for justice". Washington Post. July 13, 2016. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  7. ^ "Alton Sterling case: DA Hillar Moore recuses himself from the investigation". CBS News. Associated Press. July 11, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Berlinger, Joshua; Shoichet, Catherine E.; Almasy, Steve (July 7, 2016). "Alton Sterling shooting: Piecing together what happened before the videos". CNN. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Silverstein, Jason (July 6, 2016). "Who was Alton Sterling? What we know so far about the man killed by Baton Rouge police". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Baton Rouge Officers Will Not Be Charged in Alton Sterling's Killing". The New York Times. March 27, 2018. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Sanchez, Rosa (February 11, 2021). "City council passes $4.5M settlement for Alton Sterling's family, five years after death". News Channel Nebraska. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  12. ^ Jones, Terry (June 11, 2021). "Alton Sterling children accept $4.5 million offer to end wrongful death lawsuit". The Advocate. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  13. ^ Levenson, Michael (June 13, 2021). "$4.5 Million Settlement in Police Killing of Alton Sterling, Lawyers Say". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  14. ^ "Alton Sterling Arrested After '09 Confrontation With Cop". ABC News. July 14, 2016.
  15. ^ "Officers involved in shooting have history of complaints".
  16. ^ Murdock, Sebastian (July 6, 2016). "Howie Lake II, Blane Salamoni Identified As Officers Involved In Fatal Shooting Of Alton Sterling". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  17. ^ Garcia, Arturo (July 7, 2016). "Cops in Alton Sterling shooting investigated five times in seven years". Raw Story. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
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  19. ^ "Baton Rouge Police—July 5, 2016—OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING ON NORTH FOSTER DR" (PDF).
  20. ^ a b Lau, Maya; Stole, Bryn (July 6, 2016). "'He's got a gun! Gun': Video shows fatal confrontation between Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge police officer". The Advocate. Archived from the original on July 6, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
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  23. ^ a b "Justice Department reveals decision not to charge officers in Alton Sterling case". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  24. ^ Stanglin, Doug (July 6, 2016). "New video in Alton Sterling shooting stirs anger". USA Today. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
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  26. ^ "GRAPHIC: New cell phone video emerges in BRPD shooting". WAFB. July 6, 2016. Archived from the original on July 10, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  27. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (July 6, 2016). "The story behind the filming of the fatal Baton Rouge police shooting. It was no coincidence". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  28. ^ Miller, Justin (July 6, 2016). "New Video Emerges of Alton Sterling Being Killed by Baton Rouge Police". Daily Beast. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  29. ^ Chavez, Nicole (March 31, 2018). "Body camera shows officer threatened to shoot Alton Sterling within seconds". CNN.
  30. ^ Brennan, Christopher (July 5, 2016). "Alton Sterling shot, killed by Louisiana cops during struggle after he was selling music outside Baton Rouge store". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  31. ^ "US protests after police shooting of black man in Louisiana". BBC News. July 6, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
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  33. ^ Wang, Christine (July 7, 2016). "Obama: All Americans should be troubled by recent police shootings". CNBC. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
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  36. ^ Davis, Aaron C. (July 9, 2016). "The Bahamas' new U.S. travel advisory: Use 'extreme caution' around police". Washington Post. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
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  38. ^ "UAE, Bahrain warn citizens heading to US amid protests". Al Jazeera. July 10, 2016. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  39. ^ Lange, Jason; Hirsch, Lauren (July 10, 2016). "Three countries urge caution traveling to U.S. amid protests, violence". Reuters. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  40. ^ Sunga, Ricardo A. III (July 8, 2016). "USA / People of African descent: UN expert group condemns recent killings". Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  41. ^ Hayden, Michael Edison; Caplan, David (July 10, 2016). "Protests Continue in Baton Rouge and St. Paul Following Night of Arrests". ABC News. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  42. ^ Daley, Ken (July 10, 2016). "43 of 102 arrested protesters from outside Baton Rouge, police say". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  43. ^ Kunzelman, Michael; Santana, Rebecca (July 11, 2016). "Baton Rouge Protests Spark Arrests". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  44. ^ Joseph, Peniel E. (July 11, 2016). "For change to happen, Americans must confront the pain of black history". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  45. ^ Schmaltz, Trey; Nakamoto, Chris (July 11, 2016). "Federal raid at BR home tied to murder plot against police". WBRZ-TV. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  46. ^ "07.13.2016: Local groups and ACLU of Louisiana Sue Baton Rouge Police for First Amendment Violations at Alton Sterling Protest". ACLU of Louisiana. July 13, 2016. Archived from the original on July 18, 2016. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
  47. ^ Goldman, Adam (July 18, 2016). "Police: Officers in Baton Rouge were 'targeted and assassinated'". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  48. ^ Buchanan, Larry; Burgess, Joe; Fessenden, Ford (July 17, 2016). "How the Shooting of Police Officers in Baton Rouge Unfolded". The New York Times. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  49. ^ Craven, Julia (July 6, 2016). "Graphic Video Shows Baton Rouge Police Shooting Alton Sterling". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  50. ^
  51. ^ Fausset, Richard; Pérez-Peña, Richard; Johnson, Campbell (July 6, 2016). "Alton Sterling Shooting in Baton Rouge Prompts Justice Dept. Investigation". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  52. ^ Ruiz, Rebecca R. (May 2, 2017). "Officers Won't Be Charged in Black Man's Shooting Death in Louisiana". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  53. ^ Zapotosky, Matt; Lowery, Wesley (May 2, 2017). "Justice Department will not charge Baton Rouge officers in fatal shooting of Alton Sterling". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  54. ^ Berman, Mark; Lowery, Wesley (March 27, 2018). "Baton Rouge police officers won't be charged in fatal shooting of Alton Sterling". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  55. ^ Valencia, Nick; Almasy, Steve (March 30, 2018). "Baton Rouge police officer who shot Alton Sterling fired; videos released". CNN. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  56. ^ The ex-police officer who killed Alton Sterling is allowed to undo his firing and resign instead, The Washington Post

External links edit