Baton Rouge, LA -- In 2016, the city of Baton Rouge was rocked by the tragic death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling who was killed by police as he sold CDs in front of a convenience store. Now, after nearly two years, it was just announced that the two officers responsible for his death will not be charged.
This ruling comes nearly a year after the Justice Department ruled out federal charges as well.
“They said they didn’t find anything,” Veda Washington-Abusaleh, Sterling’s aunt said through tears on Tuesday during the press conference. “They said it was justifiable, what happened to Alton was justifiable.”
According to WTOP, Attorney General Jeff Landry said his office reviewed all of the evidence compiled by the Justice Department, including opinions issued by independent experts, and also conducted its own interviews of eyewitnesses to the shooting. He said he is “always mindful of the human element” in the case beyond his review of the facts and applicable laws.
“I know the Sterling family is hurting,” Landry told reporters. “I know that they may not agree with the decision.”
Landry cited a toxicology report that found drugs in Sterling's system which he said made it “reasonable” to conclude Sterling was under the influence of drugs during the struggle with the officers “and that contributed to his non-compliance,” Landry said.
Sterling was shot around 12:30 a.m. on July 5, 2016, at the Triple S Food Market after Baton Rouge police officers responded to calls about a man selling CDs in front of the store who was armed. The store owner, however, knew Sterling and noted that he'd been selling CDs there for years.
Shortly after arriving on scene, police began struggling with the 37-year-old, during which the two cops’ body cameras fell from their holsters, rendering their footage virtually useless — making witness cellphone video central to the case.
Witness video, albeit brief, clearly evinced officers tackling Sterling to the ground, wrestling, and then shooting him to death.
“He has a gun!” one of the officers screams.
“You f*****g move, I swear to God,” commands another officer, immediately before firing two rounds into Sterling — at point blank range.
After officers fire two more rounds, the person filming pans away, frightened — before audio captures no less than three additional shots.
Video seems to show Sterling had his arms pinned behind his back by the cops right before officers began shooting — though footage isn’t indisputable.
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Onlookers familiar with the area said at the time security cameras for the store would have captured the entire incident.
Should reports prove true, the Justice Department would be, in the eyes of many, ignoring that the officers had Sterling under control and ready to be taken into custody just before shots began ringing out.
The original cellphone video was taken from a car parked next to the officers as they approached Sterling. It is short and grainy, but it shows police tackle Sterling to the ground and officers jumping on top of him and killing him.
The second and far clearer video shows the officers having complete control over Sterling's arms when they, or at least one of them, opened fire. The end result is nothing short of devastating.
According to police, Sterling had a gun, but it was in his pocket -- he was not holding it. In the new video, you can see the officer pull a small object from Sterling's pocket as the life leaves his body.
“His hand was nowhere (near) his pocket,” Abdul Muflahi, the store owner, who was only feet away when cops shot Sterling, said.
“They were really aggressive with him from the start,” Muflahi said about the officers.
"God bless his soul," said Muflahi. "It could have been handled differently, much differently. On both sides, it could have been handled differently."
“It’s a sad day for Baton Rouge,” State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle said after news of the lack of charges spread on Tuesday. Indeed, it's a sad day for the thousands of people killed by police over the years whose killers will escape accountability because of the system's inability to police their own.
Alton Sterling had his run-ins with the police before, but he was a good man and did not deserve to die -- and the gruesome video below shows this.
Below is the graphic footage.
Below is the owner of the store giving his eyewitness testimony.