Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Tuesday that the two Baton Rouge, La., officers involved with the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling will not face state charges in his death.
Landry read his announcement at a news conference at 10 a.m. in Baton Rouge, and outlined the case in details about the 10-month investigation, which included witness statements and video evidence which he said supported his decision not to proceed with prosecution against the police. He said that policemen Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake acted in a reasonable and justifiable manner.
“Our investigation has concluded that officers Lake and Salamoni attempted to make a lawful arrest of Alton Sterling based on probable cause,” he said. “Sterling continued to resist the officer’s arrest,” he stated.
After a review of the evidence, Landry said Officer Lake first instructed Sterling to place his hands on a vehicle after he saw him engaged in a transaction with two women. He said Sterling failed to respond. Lake then tried to physically control Sterling’s hands in an attempt to get his hands on the car. Salamoni arrives to assist Lake and Sterling continues to resist arrest.
During the struggle, Sterling spins around and pulls his right arm away from Officer Salamoni and that’s when he draws his firearm from his holster and gives Sterling a “loud, aggressive verbal command and threatens to shoot him if he doesn’t comply.”
Landry explains that the command proved to be temporarily effective for the officers and as they tried to get Sterling into the police car, he started resisting arrest again. They then used a taser a few times, which also had little effect.
A struggled between the officers and Sterling ensued on the ground and Officer Salamoni is heard saying, “He’s got a gun!”
As the struggle continued Salamoni can then be heard saying, “he’s going for the gun,” ” and fires three shots into Sterling’s chest and rolls away from him.
Lake then stood positioned over Sterling pointing his handgun. Sterling rolled away from Salamoni, tried to get up and then Salamoni fires more shots into his back, killing him. It was revealed that Sterling had a .38 caliber in his pocket.
“These are the facts,” Landry said.
“The investigation included an examination and re-examination of all the evidence provided by the federal government including witness statements, photographs, video evidence, toxicology reports, the use of force expert reports and other types of evidence.”
Though the owner of the store, Abdul Muflahi, said Sterling did not have a gun in his hand, he reportedly saw police pull a handgun from Sterling’s pocket. Louisiana is an open-carry state.
The shooting, which took place a day before the police killing of Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis, sparked a wave of protests and outcry, leading the Justice Department’s civil rights division, under former President Barack Obama, to open an investigation into the high-profile shooting with the F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office in Baton Rouge.
But the Justice Department said there was insufficient evidence to find the officers criminally responsible for Sterling’s death.
As she exited a meeting with Landry, Sterling’s aunt, Vida Sterling spoke to cameras as a crowd gathered outside. “I want people to know the truth about Alton,” she said angrily. “He was murdered by two white racist police officers. He was murdered like an animal and they say they don’t see nothing wrong with it.”
Lawsuit followed shooting
In June, Sterling’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the city and police of Baton Rouge.
Sterling’s five children sought unspecified damages from the city, Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. and the police department, and the two officers involved in the shooting.
“This is not about whether the officers should go to jail. It’s about resolving this case for the children who no longer have a father because proper procedures weren’t followed,” L. Chris Stewart, one of the children’s lawyers, said at a news conference.
The lawsuit, which comprises 26 pages, claims that Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake breached protocol and used excessive force when they shot Sterling while responding to reports at a convenience store that a resident had been threatened by a Black man who was selling CDs. Police claimed that Sterling was moving to pull a gun out of his pocket when he was shot. At the time of the shooting, Baton Rouge did not have a written policy on the use of force and de-escalation.
The lawsuit also claims that Baton Rouge has a “longstanding pervasive policy of tolerating racist behavior by some of its officers.”