One day after it was leaked that the officers involved in the death of Alton Sterling would not be prosecuted, the Justice Department has released a report explaining that there was “insufficient evidence” to pursue charges.
“After extensive investigation into this tragic event, career Justice Department prosecutors have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officers Salamoni and Lake willfully violated Sterling’s civil rights,” the DOJ report, which was released on Wednesday, said.
“Given the totality of the circumstances — that the officers had been fighting with Sterling and had attempted less-than-lethal methods of control; that they knew Sterling had a weapon; that Sterling had reportedly brandished a gun at another person; and that Sterling was much larger and stronger than either officer — the Department cannot prove either that the shots were unconstitutional or that they were willful.”
The crux of the problem was that investigators were not able to prove that Alton was not reaching for a weapon when one officer shouted that it was the case.
“Although the videos do not show Sterling’s right hand at the time those shots were fired, they show that Sterling’s right hand was not under Officer Salamoni’s control,” the report said. “The evidence also cannot establish that Sterling was not reaching for a gun when Officer Salamoni yelled that Sterling was doing so.”
After the release of the report, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry asked the DOJ to forward their investigative materials and findings to state police, who would be conducting their own investigation.