An open carry law didn’t stop police from killing Alton Sterling
Protests erupted in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday night after cellphone footage surfaced of white police officers fatally shooting a black man who was pinned to the ground. In the video, two police officers confront Alton Sterling, shouting “get on the ground.” They tackle him, throw him on the hood of the car, and then onto the ground. Both officers hold Sterling down. One shouts “He’s got a gun!” One officer draws his firearm, holds it against Sterling’s head or neck, and pulls the trigger. Two shots are audible in the footage. The camera cuts away, and two more shots ring out.
The Baton Rouge Police Department said in a statement that Sterling, 37, was pronounced dead at the scene, and that the incident is under investigation. The Associated Press reported that autopsy results indicate Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the Department of Justice would investigate the incident.
The altercation began when uniformed police officers responded to reports of a disturbance in which a complainant said a black male in a red t-shirt who was selling CD’s outside a convenience store threatened him with a gun, according to the Baton Rouge Police.
Some of those who knew Sterling say that type of behavior would have been out of character for him.
Calvin Wilson, who was living in the same transitional shelter as Sterling in recent months, told The Advocate that he was an active member of the community. “Whatever he cooked, he cooked enough for everybody, “Wilson said. “I never saw him coming in here with a weapon, I never saw him drunk.”
Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the Triple S Food Market, told The Advocate that Sterling was armed, but that he never reached for his weapon during the arrest. Muflahi also said one of the officers swore after shooting Sterling, and both seemed like they were “freaking out.”
Sterling, a father of five, had reportedly been selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Market for years.
KImberly Lang told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that she had purchased CDs from Sterling in the past, and that that he didn’t have a reputation for violence. If he was armed, it was probably because he was worried about being robbed while selling his CDs at night, Lang said.
His sister, Mignon Chambers, told NBC that something “needs to be done” after the shooting
“There’s no reason for [the police] to handle him the way that [they] did,” Chambers said. “It wasn’t right.”
During an emotional news conference on Wednesday, Sterling’s 15-year-old son — the oldest of his five children — broke down in tears.
During the same news conference, Michael McClanahan, the head of the Baton Rouge’s NAACP chapter, called for the police chief to be fired or resign in the wake of the shooting.
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