On July 5th, 2016 37 year old Alton Sterling was shot several times while being held down on the ground by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. During this time police were responding to reports of a man that was wearing a red shirt selling CD’s and used a gun to threaten another man outside a convenience store. Police officers claimed he was shot because he was apparently reaching into his pocket to retrieve his gun while he was being held down by police. During the altercation, one of the officers also threatened to shoot Sterling in the head, which is illegal. The altercation was recorded by bystanders and circled around social media generating public outrage and demand for justice against the police officers responsible.
The Department of Justice had opened up an investigation into the shooting but in May 2017 decided not to go through with criminal charges against the officers. Soon after their decision Louisiana's attorney general Jeff Landry stated Louisiana would open up an investigation into the shooting once the Department of Justice released the physical evidence.
On Tuesday, Landry stated at a news conference that the officers were acting in a justifiable manner and decided not to move forward with charges. "This decision was not taken lightly," he stated during the conference. "We came to this conclusion after countless hours of reviewing the evidence gathered and turned over by the U.S. Department of Justice including voluminous documents, many photographs, and extensive video evidence — and after our own interviews of eye witnesses to the event."
Sterling’s five children have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers responsible last summer, Officer Blane Salamoni who shot Sterling and Officer Howie Lake II. The Baton Rouge Police Department will also hold disciplinary hearings by this Friday to determine whether the officers had followed procedure. Once the hearings are over, the police department will release four other videos, two body camera recordings, one from a store surveillance camera, and another from the dashboard of a patrol car. Many think the additional videos will erupt more public outrage.
This is an unfortunate end to the Alton Sterling case, and a step back at holding police accountable for their actions. While the officers are still going to be under investigation under the department, it is clear that not much has been done in holding officers accountable for killing black men. The responsibility of police officers is to keep their communities safe from violence and other crimes but it is clear there is not proper training or accountability for officers who commit crimes while on the job. Many believe officers should be just as accountable for their crimes as any other person, if not more, since they are the ones in charge of keeping the peace.
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