Together BR urges transparency, thoroughness in Sterling investigation
BATON ROUGE - Together Baton Rouge’s press conference concerning the officer-involved shooting that took the life of Alton Sterling on Tuesday morning began with condolences and a prayer with more than 100 faith and community leaders in attendance.
The media event took place at Wesley United Methodist Church on Government Street just after 10 a.m. It comes just two days after a 37-year-old man was shot dead in front of a convenience store on North Foster Drive. Both BRPD officers involved, Howie Lake and Blane Salamoni, are currently on paid administrative leave.
“This is a time of grieving in our community. It is a time of anger. And it is a time of raising, and answering, a fundamental question - whether the killing of a member of our community, Alton Sterling, by a member of our police force was justified or unjustified," began a statement from Together BR.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will take the lead on the investigation into the officer-involved shooting.
The main concern presented by the Together Baton Rouge organization revolves around the designation of the Alton Sterling investigation as a civil rights case. The group says this presents a potential "major hole" in the investigation.
In the speaking engagement, community leaders said they hope the Feds will maintain transparency during the investigation while making sure that any other possible violations of state and federal law, beyond civil rights violations, are thoroughly probed.
They note that while a civil rights investigation is of "crucual importance," it is also important to look into other potential criminal charges including false arrest, battery, aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon, negligent homicide, manslaughter, second degree murder and other crimes.
The group is concerned that the scope of the investigation could be narrowed to solely focus on a single civil rights violation, which Together Baton Rouge says is difficult to prosecute and carries a "higher-than-normal" standard of evidence.
They also urged the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney to bring state charges should it be determined in the investigation that state law was violated.
Speakers at the event included Pastor Joe Connelly, Rev. Patty Snyder, Rev. Lee T. Wesley, Edgar Page/Together Baton Rouge, Rep. Ted James and Rep. C. Denise Marcelle.
Numerous elected officials appeared at the event. Community leaders also praised the public for maintaining peaceful protests in the days immediately following the shooting. Patience was urged as the investigation ramps up.