Protests in Baton Rouge are growing as residents there demand to know the details behind the fatal police shooting of a man who was selling CDs outside of a convenience store.
Alton Sterling, 37, reported to be a father of five, struggled with officers before shots were fired, this according to police. A video taken by a bystander showing the incident that ended in his death has raised questions about the officers’ actions and gone viral. The case has also sparked a nationwide outcry and calls for investigations, once again, over the disproportionate number of police-involved shootings of African Americans. Just as in similar cases to this one Sterling had a prior criminal record which has surfaced in mainstream media coverage. Outlets are also reporting that, for at least a few months prior to the shooting, Sterling had been living at a shelter in Baton Rouge.
Here are some other basic facts compiled on the incident, based on what is currently known and we will continue to update this case, plus offer EBONY analysis.
1. Incident started with disturbance call
An anonymous tip led to Baton Rouge police investigating a man who was allegedly selling CDs and carrying a gun outside of a convenience store. According to a statement from the department, police responded to a disturbance call from a person who said a man was threatening people with a gun. Once police responded, a confrontation ensued between the two officers and Sterling suffered fatal gunshot wounds. However, it is not clear how the confrontation started or what escalated it.
2. The officers involved have been identified
Baton Rouge police say the officers involved in the shooting were identified as Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake II. Salamoni is a four-year veteran of the BRPD while Lake has been with the force for three. Both officers work in the department’s uniform patrol division. The two officers have been placed on administrative leave.
3. Police body cams were present, but law enforcement officials say they didn’t provide footage
The officers responding to the call were wearing body cams, but during the scuffle between the cops and Sterling, they fell off, State Rep. Denise Marcelle told WAFB-TV. She said she was told by Police Chief Carl Dabadie that although there is no body cam footage, dash cam footage does exist. Cpl. L’Jean McKneely told the station that there is also video footage from the convenience store itself that police will be investigating.
4. Convenience store owner witnessed the entire incident
Sterling had been selling CDs in the area for a while and had been selling them outside of the Triple S Food Mart. Abdullah Muflahi, who owns the store where the shooting happened, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that the two officers confronted Sterling shortly after arriving, about midnight Tuesday. He said that police shot him with a taser gun, but he did not go down immediately. The police eventually wrestled him to the ground and at some point someone yelled “gun.” At that point five or six shots rang out, he said, hitting Sterling in the chest. The man was not holding a weapon, Muflahi said, but added after the shooting the cops reached into Sterling’s pocket and took out a handgun. Muflahi said that Sterling had recently began carrying a weapon after a friend was robbed.
5. Several officer-involved shootings have taken place in Baton Rouge in recent years
According to NOLA.com, police officers in Baton Rouge shot a man to death in 2009, two in 2011, and two in 2013. Those shootings were deemed justifiable after an investigation. Several took place in 2015 that are still under investigation according to information from the Baton Rouge police department. Earlier this year, police shot Calvin Smith, 22, to death after he shot two officers after a property disturbance call and a chase.
6. A Department of Justice investigation is under way
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says that the DOJ Civil Rights Division will take the lead of the investigation after commenting that the cell phone video released of the shooting is “disturbing to say the least.” The move by the agency comes as several political leaders publicly called for a federal probe into the event. Among those most vocal was Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond: “There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding Mr. Sterling’s death. Including questions about the initial calls for police presence, the level of force used by officers, the verbal and physical altercation, and the response of the officers after he was shot. I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident,” said Richmond in a statement. “The cause of justice requires state and local law enforcement to join in this request as soon as possible.”
Check back with EBONY.com for more updates in this developing story…