The U.S. Justice Department will launch a civil rights investigation into the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, officials said on July 6.
The incident happened on Tuesday just after midnight, and was recorded by a witness on a cellphone. The video, which showed the confrontation between Sterling and two police officers, quickly circulated on social media, and Sterling was compared with other black men killed by police, including Walter Scott, Laquan McDonald, and Eric Garner.
The officers, who are both white, involved are on leave, pending the investigation. They are Blane Salamoni, a four-year veteran, and Howie Lake II, a three-year veteran, said Chief Carl Dabadie of the Baton Rouge Police Department, via a live video feed Wednesday.
“Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand. And at this point, I too am demanding answers,” said Chief Carl Dabadie of the Baton Rouge Police Department, via a live video feed.
He called the incident a “horrible tragedy.” Dabadie said his prayers were with the community and Sterling’s family.
The case has been turned over to the Justice Department and the FBI, as it is “in the best interest” of the Baton Rouge community, Dabadie said. He said Sterling was armed.
He said evidence such as audio, video, dashcam and bodycam footage, and statements from witnesses will be reviewed. He said “no stone will be left unturned.”
Officials are asking the public to contact the Department of Justice with any evidence concerning the case.
Meanwhile, the city’s mayor, Kip Holden, said it was a “sad and tough day” for the community.
He said he has received phone calls from others reaching out to help, including calls from the president’s office and the mayor of Baltimore, where protests erupted after another black man, Freddie Gray, died in police custody.
“We have a wound right now but we’ll be healing,” said Holden.
The 48-second long video shows an officer firing at least one round into a man’s chest outside the Triple S store.
At least four more shots can be heard as the camera moves away.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground!” a police officer is heard shouting at the start of the video.
Two police officers are then seen wrestling a man in a red shirt against a car before pinning him to the ground.
One officer can be seen grabbing the man’s left arm down. However, his right arm is not visible.
“He’s got a gun! Gun,” the officer says, prompting the other officer take an object out of his holster. “You [expletive] move, I swear to God,” he then says as the second officer points his weapon at his chest. A flash is then seen from that officer’s weapon—along with the sound of gunshots.
“They shot him?” a man’s voice can be heard. “Yes!” a crying woman then says.
The video can be viewed here (warning: graphic and disturbing).
After the incident, the Baton Rouge police, via Facebook, offered a brief statement saying, “Uniformed officers responded to a disturbance call from a complainant who stated that a black male who was selling music cd’s and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun.”
“Sterling was shot during the altercation and died at the scene,” added the statement.
Alton Sterling, 37, was a regular at the store where he died—known to residents as the “CD man.”
The shooting death has drawn the attention of the Black Lives Matter group, and Sterling’s name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday night. Hundreds gathered outside the store where he was shot, according to videos and photos posted on Twitter.
The Baton Rouge police chief asked for “peaceful assembly” regarding any protests and asked that “no one gets hurt or injured.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 6, 2016
The family of Sterling read out a statement after his death.
“He had to watch this, as this was put all over the outlets,” said Quinyetta McMillan about her and Sterling’s 15-year-old son, Cameron Sterling, watching the graphic video of the shooting.
“As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” she said.
Sterling’s 15-year-old son broke down in tears during the press conference saying, “I want my daddy.”