Thu, May 04, 2017 - Page 7 News List

No federal charges to be filed in Sterling shooting

AP, BATON ROUGE, Louisiana

Southern University and A&M College student Damon Brumfield on Tuesday poses in front of a mural honoring Alton Sterling outside the Triple S Food Mart, where Sterling was shot and killed by police on July 5 last year, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Photo: AP

The US Department of Justice has decided not to charge two white Baton Rouge police officers in the death of a black man, whose fatal shooting was captured on cellphone video, fueling protests in Louisiana’s capital and beyond, the Associated Press has learned.

Federal authorities opened a civil rights investigation immediately after the police shooting on July 5 last year that killed Alton Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store where he was selling homemade CDs.

A person familiar with the decision disclosed it to the AP on Tuesday. The person was not authorized to talk publicly about the decision and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The department’s decision does not preclude state authorities from conducting their own investigation and pursuing their own criminal charges.

Two cellphone videos of Sterling’s deadly struggle with two white officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, quickly spread on social media after the shooting.

A police report says Sterling was initially jolted with a stun gun after he did not comply with the officers’ commands to put his hands on the hood of a car.

The report also says the officers saw the butt of a gun in one of Sterling’s pants pockets and saw him try to reach for it before he was shot.

Outside the convenience store, dozens of people on Tuesday gathered upon hearing the news and held a vigil. One of Sterling’s aunts spoke at the vigil and led the crowd in chants of “No justice, no peace.”

“It’s been almost a year and we’re still suffering like it happened yesterday,” Veda Sterling said. “We need closure. We need a conviction. We need justice.”

Arthur Reed, a local activist, said he broke the news to another of Alton Sterling’s aunts, Sandra, in a telephone call after seeing the news reports.

Reed said she broke down crying and was “heartbroken,” not only because of the decision, but because the department did not notify the family first.

“We just think it wasn’t done properly,” he said.

No public announcement has been made by the department and many officials in Baton Rouge said they have not been notified.

“The governor’s office has not been notified of a time line or decision regarding the Alton Sterling investigation. We have been in constant contact with the US Attorney’s office and were assured that both our office and the Sterling family would be given advance notice,” said Richard Carbo, a spokesman for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

John McLindon, Salamoni’s attorney, said he could not comment until he reads an official report from the department.

An attorney for Lake did not return a call seeking comment.

Ryan Julison, a spokesman for two attorneys representing some members of Alton Sterling’s family, said the family had not been notified of any department decision.

Justin Bamberg, an attorney for some of Sterling’s relatives, has said the family wanted an indictment.

Bamberg also represents family members of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was running from a traffic stop in Charleston, South Carolina, when a white police officer shot and killed him in 2015.

The former officer, 35-year-old Michael Slager, pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges on Tuesday, five months after a jury deadlocked on state murder charges against him.

Tuesday’s decision in the Sterling case was the highest profile decision not to bring charges against police officers in a deadly shooting since US Attorney General Jeff Sessions took office.

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