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Shooting death of Alton Sterling - Everything We Know

8 years 2 weeks 4 days ago Wednesday, July 06 2016 Jul 6, 2016 July 06, 2016 11:20 PM July 06, 2016 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE – One man is dead after an officer-involved shooting in Baton Rouge Tuesday morning. Video of the shooting sparked a wildfire of public outcry from around the nation. Here is everything we know about the shooting death of Alton Sterling:

Two Videos of officer-involved shooting released

Two video clips recorded by witnesses outside the Triple S convenience store on North Foster Drive Tuesday morning captured an altercation that resulted in police killing 37-year-old Alton Sterling.

One video showed two Baton Rouge Police officers pin down Sterling before shooting him as he was on the ground.

Below is a recording of the Baton Rouge Police scanners from Tuesday morning:

Footage shows two officers interacting with Sterling and appears to have their guns drawn. About 14 seconds into the video, the officers tackle Sterling to the ground and shots are heard about 19 seconds later, 33 seconds into the video.

In the entire video, as many as three or more shots are heard and people scream.

A second, more graphic video emerged Wednesday afternoon shows the shooting of Alton Sterling from a slightly different angle.

The second video, recorded by the store owner, Abdullah Muflahi, shows the officers on top of Sterling and the shots being fired. The camera moves away at one point and when it returns, Sterling can be seen lying on the ground with what appears to be blood on his chest.

One officer is lying on the ground on his side with his weapon pointed toward Sterling, who appears to still be alive as his arm moves up to his chest. A voice can be heard saying "Shots fired! Shots fired!" The video then shows a second officer reaching into Sterling's pocket and pulling out an object.

It's not clear from the murky video what it is, but the store owner says it was Sterling's gun.

Muflahi said Sterling seemed "confused" and was trying to figure out why authorities were trying to arrest him before he was shot.

Muflahi said he saw Sterling being thrown on top of a car hood. He said Sterling appeared confused and kept asking, "What did I do wrong?"

A witness said police used Tasers at least twice before Sterling was tackled.  The witness said the Tasers did not have any effect on Sterling. 

The man who says he shot the first video says he has been distributing the footage on social media as a service to the community.

Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he and a team from his company, Stop the Killing Inc., made the video. Reed says his company shoots documentary-style videos about killings in Baton Rouge.

Reed says that on the day of Sterling's death, two teams of people drove to the scene, outside a convenience store, after hearing about the incident on police radio.

Reed described the scene: "They were already messing with him, and it escalated. After the shots, we left."

Over the past decade, Reed's organization filmed the aftermath of more than 30 deadly shootings in the city.

Baton Rouge Police names involved officers

During an 11 a.m. press conference Wednesday morning, Baton Rouge Police released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting.

According to BRPD, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II responded to a the Triple-S convenience store on North Foster Drive early Tuesday morning after a 911 caller reported a man threatening them with a gun.

Salamoni is a four-year veteran of the force. Lake has been with BRPD for three years. Both officers work in the Uniform Patrol Division and were placed on administrative leave Tuesday morning following the shooting.

Officers confirmed that Sterling was armed with a gun when they arrived on the scene.

Video captured from witnesses at the scene show the two officers wrestle Sterling to the ground. Nearly 20 seconds later Salamoni shot him, according to The Advocate.

Baton Rouge Police say they have dash-cam video, body-cam video and store surveillance video of the police shooting death of a black man outside a convenience store.

Police Lt. Jonny Dunnam says the body-cam footage may not be as good as investigators hoped for because the cameras became dislodged during the altercation.

Louisiana ACLU executive director Marjorie Esman wants to know if the officers were trained in how to properly fasten the cameras. She says right when they were needed the most is when two of them malfunctioned in the same way.

Dunnam noted that even though federal investigators are taking the lead, there will be an internal investigation and the officers will be entitled to hearings before any disciplinary actions are taken.

She also says authorities also should investigate whether police could have used some other means of subduing Sterling and "if it was necessary to subdue him at all."

Court documents say Lake was previously involved in a shooting with an armed man.

The documents say Lake was among the police officers who exchanged fire with a man who fled police on Dec. 13, 2014.

Lake told detectives he fired six or seven shots when Kevin Knight refused to drop his gun, threatened to kill himself and pointed his revolver at officers.

Knight was wounded. His trial is scheduled for next month. Knight's attorney said he didn't have access to the court documents and couldn't immediately comment on Lake's role in the shooting.

Lake was placed on administrative leave. It wasn't clear from a summary of his statement to detectives whether he was disciplined.

Wednesday morning, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. called the shooting a tragedy.

"Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand,” Dabadie Jr. said. “And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers."

A preliminary autopsy from the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office confirmed that Sterling died from gunshot wounds to the chest and back.

Edwards: Department of Justice will investigate

Gov. John Bel Edwards says the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is taking the lead on the shooting investigation.

Edwards held a press conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion. Edwards said the incident will be investigated thoroughly. He also expressed condolences to the family and urged residents to keep protests peaceful.

Edwards said he spoke with the White House, Louisiana State Police Superintendent, District Attorney and U.S. Attorney ahead of the press conference. Edwards said he spoke with Sterling’s family and has seen the both videos of the shooting.

"The video is disturbing to say the least," said Gov. Edwards.

Edwards did not comment on the Baton Rouge Police's role in the shooting.

Baton Rouge Police say they turned over surveillance footage along with audio and video from the officers’ body cameras to the Department of Justice.

The federal probe into the incident will be transparent and independent, according to BRPD Chief Dabadie.

Attorney General Jeff Landry says he will follow the federal investigation and provide all necessary resources to fulfill requests by any agency involved in the "tragic incident."

The following statement was issued by the FBI Wednesday morning:

“The FBI's New Orleans Division, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Louisiana have opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Alton Sterling. The Justice Department will collect all available facts and evidence and conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation. As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.”

Watch Edwards' full press conference here:

Outcry as community demands answers

Friends and family of a slain Baton Rouge man are remembering Sterling as a friendly man who tried to make a living selling music at a local convenience store.

Larry Sterling, Alton Sterling's cousin, said every time he would see Alton he was smiling.

Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the store, said he called Sterling "Big Boy" and said he was always laughing or joking around. Muflahi said Sterling had been selling CDs for years outside his store and never created any problems.

Community activists met Wednesday morning demanding an independent investigation into Sterling’s death. Activists gathered at 8 a.m. on the steps of Baton Rouge City Hall promised their protests would not end until they feel justice has been served.

“We’re actually here today to speak to the culture of the Baton Rouge Police Department,” said Edmond Jordan, the family's attorney. “We’re going to root out the 1-percent of police officers that act as judge, jury and executioner.”

A member of Sterling's family said the man was "killed without regard for the lives that he had raised" as the man's 15-year-old son stood on the podium.

Denise Marcelle, a candidate for mayor who attended the rally, said black city leaders should demand answers and provide them.

Community leaders called for Mayor Kip Holden and Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie to resign. Both Holden and Dabadie said Wednesday that they do not plan on resigning.

"They shouldn't have waited this long to give us the answers that we are asking for," Marcelle said. "If you don't do that, then people continue to have questions," she said, warning that the situation could become more volatile if city officials do not start talking about the shooting.

Local NAACP leader Michael McClanahan said the city can't have a leader who "allows this type of action to take place."

Tuesday night, protesters took to the streets around the store where Sterling was shot and killed. Protesters chanted "Black lives matter" and shouted expletives about police.

Hundreds of protesters, mourners, friends and family ogathered in front of the convenience store Wednesday afternoon for a vigil. There were prayers, songs, a balloon release in Sterling's memory and calls for justice. Many of those gathered held signs demanding action as participants chanted "Black Lives Matter."

Some of the protesters' signs read "No Justice, No Peace," ''Black Out Downtown!" and "Who is supposed to protect us?"

Sandra Augustus, an aunt who helped raise Sterling after his mother died, spoke to the crowds with a broken voice, tearful. She said a second video that emerged Wednesday showing the moments before her nephew was shot left her angry.

Still, she pleaded for protesters and those gathered not to allow the vigil to be marred by violence.

At one point during the vigil, protesters marched down a busy street near the site of the shooting, blocking traffic. Little to no police presence was seen near the peaceful gathering but police were nearby if needed.

A protest in Philadelphia blocked a highway on-ramp. Police have arrested about a dozen people. Wednesday's protest took place at an on-ramp for Interstate 676, a major thoroughfare through the downtown Philadelphia area.

About 75 people took part. Many chanted "This is what democracy looks like" and "No justice, no peace, no racist police."

The angry protests comes at a time when law enforcement officers across the country are being scrutinized over what critics see as indiscriminate use of deadly force against blacks.

Local politicians comment on shooting

Gov. John Bel Edwards is attending a vigil and meeting with federal officials for an update on the investigation into the police shooting death of a Baton Rouge man.

The governor's office said Edwards will attend a 6 p.m. prayer vigil with community and faith leaders as well as other elected officials.

In a statement Wednesday, Clinton says something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that their country doesn't consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin. Clinton says incidents such as the Sterling shooting have undermined the trust between police departments and the communities they serve.

In saying that trust needs to be rebuilt and justice served, Clinton cites what she calls "commonsense reforms" like ending racial profiling and providing better training on de-escalation and implicit bias.

Clinton says that all over America, there are police officers demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force - and that everyone needs to learn from and build on those examples.

Baton Rouge Mayoral candidate Sharon Weston Broome said the situation is tragic and disturbing.

"We must demand justice and the facts and then we must come together to act decisively," Broom said.

"Our entire community should be concerned about what has occurred," Broome said.  "This incident has to be a lightning rod for change, but not for violence and unrest like we have seen in other cities."

In a phone conversation with Mayor Kip Holden around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Holden said there will be no cover-up. Holden assured a full, fair investigation.

Holden was also present at the Baton Rouge Police press conference Wednesday morning. Holden said he received calls offering support, including calls from the Mayor of Baltimore and the President's Office.

Holden cautioned against making political statements in the wake of the shooting. Residents were again urged to remain peaceful and to try to suspend passing judgment until the ongoing investigation is completed.

"While we wait, we must unite under the rule of law. If we gather in protest, it must be peaceful. The world is watching to see if we devolve into chaos or unite and emerge with an ever stronger commitment to justice. I have faith. I believe in the people of Baton Rouge. Let us come together now. Let us seek answers and learn the facts.  And once the truth is known, we will take action - together, as one Baton Rouge," said a statement from Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado released on Wednesday morning.

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