No charges for police officers in fatal Alton Sterling shooting

Louisiana will not charge two officers in shooting which helped fuel Black Lives Matter movement

Alton Sterling was shot outside a store in 2016 after a resident reported he had been threatened by a black man selling CDs. Photograph: AFP/East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office

Alton Sterling was shot outside a store in 2016 after a resident reported he had been threatened by a black man selling CDs. Photograph: AFP/East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office

 

Louisiana will not charge two white police officers who in 2016 fatally shot Alton Sterling, one of a number of black men slain by police that sparked protests across the United States, because evidence showed their actions were justified, a state official said on Tuesday.

Sterling’s death in Baton Rouge helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement and inflamed a national debate over racial bias in US policing.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said Baton Rouge officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake had good reason to believe Sterling (37) was armed with a gun and was resisting arrest.

“Our investigation has concluded that officers Lake and Salamoni attempted to make a lawful arrest of Alton Sterling based upon probable cause,” Mr Landry told a news conference.

Civil rights activists contend the officers escalated tensions during the arrest in a convenience store parking lot, turning it into a deadly encounter.

“He was murdered by two white racist police officers. He was murdered like an animal,” Sterling’s aunt, Veda Washington-Abusaleh, told reporters in video posted on social media by local media.

Mr Landry told reporters the two Baton Rouge officers gave verbal instructions and tried non-lethal methods to subdue Sterling, who did not comply.

Sterling was shot outside the store on July 5th, 2016, after a resident reported he had been threatened by a black man selling CDs. Police said Sterling was trying to pull a loaded gun out of his pocket when Mr Salamoni opened fire.

“There was never any criminal activity here. It was an unfortunate situation but it was a justified shooting,” John McLindon, an attorney for Mr Salamoni, said in a telephone interview.

L Chris Stewart, an Atlanta-based lawyer representing Sterlings’s relatives, said the family was disappointed by the decision.

“This case did not even go to a grand jury, which would have allowed the citizens of Baton Rouge to decide this. It takes courage and we just didn’t see that in this situation,”he said in a telephone interview.

In June 2017, Sterling’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, alleging a history of excessive-force and racism toward African-Americans.

Democratic Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said state prosecutors had followed the law in evaluating the case. He supported calls for the Baton Rouge police department to conduct a review to determine if disciplinary action should be taken.

“We owe this final review to the Baton Rouge community and the Sterling family,” he said in a statement.

The two officers are on paid administrative leave, Mr Salamoni’s lawyer said.

The Sterling shooting prompted nationwide protests, including a demonstration two days later in Dallas where five law enforcement officers were fatally shot by an African-American ex-serviceman. –Reuters