Why the feds did not file charges in Alton Sterling's death
- Author: Larry Hoffman May 05, 2017,
May 05, 2017, 0:21
The Justice Department's decision not to charge two white Baton Rouge police officers in the shooting death of a black man may not be the final legal chapter in a case that reverberated far beyond Louisiana's capital.
The Washington Post and The New York Times first reported Tuesday that multiple sources told them the US Justice Department, which led the investigation into the shooting, will close its investigation and not seek charges against the officers.
A civil rights investigation was opened after the shooting last summer that killed Alton Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store.
That announcement finally came late Wednesday afternoon.
Sterling's family held a news conference on Wednesday to call on Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to pursue state criminal charges.
Some of Sterling's relatives had wanted an indictment in the case, their attorney, Justin Bamberg said.
Sterling's family said the father of five was minding his own business and did not deserve to die. It was dishonest then and it is dishonest now.
"I want to tell y'all some of the hurt I had yesterday", said Sanda Sterling, Alton's aunt, who raised him, CBS Baton Rouge affiliate WAFB reports. I saw a phone come out [of] his pocket. "I don't think he had a gun". He cited videos released at the time of the shooting in which officers shout that Sterling has a gun before shooting him. "We are not going to submit", said Abdullah, who is chairwoman of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.
Ryan Julison, a spokesman for two attorneys representing some members of Alton Sterling's family, said the family hasn't been notified of any DOJ decision.
Neither the governor, nor officials with the U.S. Department of Justice, characterized Landry's role or the role of his staff as being in a supportive role in the state investigation. It was one in a series of high-profile police killings of black men that inflamed debate over police treatment of minorities. Alton Sterling was not innocent and he was not murdered.
He also confirmed earlier reports that Salamoni, who had been on the force for three years, shot Sterling. When he died, this "good daddy" was a registered sex offender who owed over $26,000 in child support.
The first bystander video, filmed from inside a auto, shows Sterling and Salamoni and Lake, who were answering a 911 report of a man with a gun, standing near a vehicle outside the convenience store. A coroner's report on Sterling's autopsy has been sealed. During the fight, a loaded pistol fell from his pocket.
Police eventually manage to pin Sterling to the ground, with one officer straddling him.
In the summary of the federal decision, the Justice Department says video footage does not "show Sterling's right hand at the time those shots were fired" but "they show Sterling's right hand was not under Officer Salamoni's control". And Martin, does the Justice Department decision not to prosecute in Baton Rouge surprise you? "Sterling's right hand which is where the gun was so I'm sure they wish it was clearer from the perspective, but they did have audio on the tape where the officer was saying he's got a gun", Hardin said.
Sterling's aunt, Sandra Sterling, said Tuesday night of the Justice Department's then-reported decision, "It's insane".
Baton Rouge mayor Sharon Weston Broome called the leaks appalling. "It is inappropriate and against the interests of public safety.to allow this level of uncertainty to continue".
With the official announcement now having been made, tensions in Baton Rouge and around the country are increasing. He was immediately slammed by rights groups as sending a signal of impunity. As part of the investigation, prosecutors asked two independent use-of-force experts to review the case.
The new details about the alleged threat were revealed after federal prosecutors announced that they would not file charges against that officer and a second white Baton Rouge officer involved in the deadly encounter with Alton Sterling last summer.
"They must have acted with specific intent", said Amundson, which he described as the highest standard of proof in criminal law.