No Charges Filed in Police Shooting of Black Man in Louisiana
Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 – 4:20 PM
(AFP) Louisiana’s attorney general announced on Tuesday that two police officers will not face any charges in the 2016 shooting death of an African-American man in the southern US state, which sparked widespread protests.
California’s state justice department meanwhile announced that it will oversee an investigation into another controversial police shooting — that of an unarmed black man in Sacramento.
The two cases have revived concerns about police misconduct — fatal shootings of African-American suspects in recent years have fueled a nationwide debate over race and criminal justice.
Alton Sterling, 37, was shot dead in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 5, 2016 in a scuffle with police outside a convenience store where he had been selling CDs. The shooting was captured on cell phone video.
The state’s attorney general Jeff Landry told a press conference that no legal action would be taken against officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, both of whom are white.
“Our investigation has concluded that officers Lake and Salamoni attempted to make a lawful arrest,” Varney said, adding that the decision not to file charges “was not taken lightly.”
He said Sterling was armed, under the influence of illegal drugs and had resisted efforts to arrest him.
“Throughout the encounter, the officers attempted several non-lethal techniques to gain compliance and control of Mr. Sterling’s hands,” he said.
“Their efforts to do so were a direct result of the information relayed to them by the Baton Rouge police department dispatcher — and that was that Mr. Sterling was armed with a firearm.
“Furthermore, the officers’ concern that he was armed and dangerous was in fact subsequently verified and correct,” he said.
According to the Louisiana Justice Department report into the shooting, a loaded .38 caliber handgun was found in the right front pocket of Sterling’s pants.
– ‘Fight for justice’ –
Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, condemned the decision not to charge the police officers.
“You put a killer back on the streets,” Sterling said.
“We’re going to continue to fight for justice,” said another aunt, Veda Washington. “One way or another it’s going to come,” she told CNN.
Nearly a year ago, the US Justice Department also declined to press charges against the officers involved in Sterling’s shooting.
The US Justice Department said it found “insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges” against either officer.
According to investigators, Salamoni shot Sterling three times in the chest and then again in the back in an encounter that lasted less than 90 seconds.
The United States was then set on edge for weeks after an African-American man shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas.
A similar assault took place in Baton Rouge, where three officers were shot dead by another black man, also a former military veteran.
– Sacramento shooting probed –
Authorities in Sacramento, the California state capital, called for calm on Tuesday as they announced a probe into the March 18 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark.
“Our independent oversight of the investigation and our separate review of the (Sacramento police) department will be based on the facts and the law. Nothing more, nothing less,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
Clark, a 22-year-old father of two, was shot dead by police in the backyard of his grandparents’ home.
The incident was triggered by an emergency 911 phone call stating that a man was smashing car windows in the neighborhood.
Videos caught by a helicopter and by the officer’s body cameras showed Clark running through the neighborhood, then entering the backyard of his grandparents’ home, where he lived.
The officers burst into the yard with their weapons drawn and confronted Clark, shouting: “Show me your hands!” followed soon after by “Gun, gun, gun!”
The officers fired at least 20 rounds. Clark did not have a weapon but was clutching an iPhone.
Protests were held outside the state capitol building and in the streets of downtown Sacramento, with marchers blocking traffic and clashing with police.
The officers involved in the shooting were put on leave pending the investigation.
© Agence France-Presse