Alton Sterling shooting death: Reports suggest no federal charges

Posted at 11:09 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 23:09:58-04

Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police outside the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The US Justice Department might close its investigation into the police shooting death of Alton Sterling without pursuing charges, according to media reports.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that multiple sources told them the department, which led the investigation into the 2016 shooting of Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will not seek charges against the officers.

CNN has not independently confirmed the Post and Times reports.

The Justice Department has not communicated to anyone a decision regarding the officers involved in the case, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN. When there is a decision, the family will be notified first and then the department will hold a news conference, she said.

Two attorneys for the Sterling family and a family member told CNN on Tuesday evening they have not heard from the Justice Department on a decision in the case, in which two white police officers were involved in the shooting while trying to detain Sterling, a black man, outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5.

Sterling’s aunt said she has not heard from federal authorities.

“It’s not right. Lord have Mercy. Oh my God,” Sandra Sterling said by phone.

The shootings set off protests across Baton Rouge and beyond and became an important chapter in the national discussion of how police interact with minorities. The officers — Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II — were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.

The mayor was upset by the reports, the first of which appeared in the Post.

“I am appalled that this news, whether true or false, has been disseminated without a formal decision being relayed to the Sterling family first. Also, no one in my office or the governor’s office has been notified by the U.S. Attorney’s office of a decision or timeline,” Sharon Weston Broome said.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry tweeted that he will comment after an official DOJ announcement.

People began gathering outside the Triple S Food Mart on Tuesday after the reports of a decision surfaced publicly.

One woman, who identified herself as Alton Sterling’s aunt, expressed her disappointment to the crowd.

“We need a conviction; we need justice,” Vera Sterling said.

The videos

The killing gripped the nation because two bystander videos, each less than a minute long, captured the struggle with officers.

The first bystander video, filmed from inside a car, shows Sterling and Salamoni and Lake, who were answering a 911 report of a man with a gun, standing near a vehicle outside the convenience store.

The camera pans downward and a pop is heard. Someone yells, “Get on the ground!” Another pop, possibly from a Taser, rings out. The convenience store owner said officers twice deployed the devices before the shooting.

An officer rushes Sterling and pulls him to the ground. The other officer assists in restraining Sterling. Someone shouts, “He’s got a gun!”

An officer draws something from his waistband and points it at Sterling. More yelling ensues, followed by two loud bangs, then three more bangs.

The second video shows Sterling on the ground as one officer straddles him and another kneels to his left.

After the gunshots, the camera captures Sterling with a large bloodstain on his chest as an officer lying on the pavement aims his weapon.

As Sterling moves his left arm toward his face and then his chest, the other officer appears to remove something from Sterling’s right pocket. Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said Sterling was armed at the time, and a witness said the officer removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket.

The ‘CD Man’

Sterling was known as the “CD man,” a laid-back guy who sold CDs and DVDs in front of the convenience story on the west side of the city.

The father of five was respected in the community, said Edmond Jordan, the family attorney.

“Alton was out there selling CDs, trying to make a living,” Jordan said. “He was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct.”

Castile shooting

A police incident report does not specify who shot Sterling.

Cities across the country held vigils for Sterling.

A day after Sterling’s death, police shot and killed Philando Castile, 32, in Minnesota, in a traffic stop that was streamed on Facebook Live. The Castile shooting upped the intensity of protests around the nation, as well as the debates over police violence. An officer was charged with manslaughter in Castile’s death.

On July 7, in Dallas, a gunman ambushed officers, killing five and wounding seven others in the deadliest single incident for US law enforcement since September 11, 2001.

Baton Rouge, a city of 238,000 residents, reentered the spotlight July 17 when an ex-Marine from Missouri ambushed and killed three law enforcement officers.

Col. Michael D. Edmonson of Louisiana State Police said at the time the killings were “chilling in the sheer brutality.”