BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Justice Department has decided not to pursue charges against two white police officers involved in the shooting death of a black man selling homemade CDs in front of a convenience store. Alton Sterling’s death inflamed racial tensions in Louisiana’s capital, cast a national spotlight on the history of strained relations between police and black residents of Baton Rouge and sparked widespread protests.
Here’s a look at the key details:
THE SHOOTING: Just after midnight on July 5, 2016, two Baton Rouge police officers later identified as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II approached Alton Sterling as he was selling CDs in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge. The officers were responding to a complaint that Sterling had threatened somebody with a gun. By the end of the encounter Sterling, 37, was dead, shot multiple times by police. A police report said Sterling didn’t comply with officers’ commands to put his hands on the hood of a car and was jolted with a stun gun. 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.
THE PROTESTS: The shooting came at a time of heightened attention across the country on police encounters with black men. The altercation was captured on at least two cellphone videos that were widely disseminated in the hours and days after the shooting. Outrage over the videos sparked protests across the city, and hundreds of demonstrators were arrested. Gov. John Bel Edwards praised the police reaction to the protests, but others criticized the police, saying the response was heavy-handed.
THE OFFICERS & STERLING’S FAMILY: Salamoni and Lake were both placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure after such incidents. Neither has spoken of the shooting publicly. Salamoni has been a Baton Rouge police officer for four years; Lake had been on the force for three years. Salamoni’s father is a Baton Rouge police captain and his mother retired as a Baton Rouge police captain in June after 32 years on the force. Sterling was survived by five children. One of them, Cameron, occasionally spoke publicly about the shooting along with his mother Quinyetta McMillon. In the days after the shooting, Cameron called for protests to remain peaceful. His mother has called for the officers to be prosecuted and questioned whether Alton Sterling had a gun.
WHAT’S NEXT? The local district attorney recused himself from the case in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, citing a conflict of interest because he knows Salamoni’s parents. The district attorney’s recusal leaves Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to decide whether to have his own office review evidence for possible state charges or to appoint another district attorney to take over the case.
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