Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Feds open investigation into police shooting

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Cameron Sterling (left) Alton Sterling's son, cries as his mother, Quinyetta McMillan, speaks about the shooting of Alton Sterling during a press conference and protest at City Hall on Wednesday, July 6. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge police officer on Tuesday outside a store where he was selling CDs.


The United States Justice Department opened a federal civil rights investigation yesterday into the videotaped police killing of a black man who was shot as officers wrestled with him on the pavement outside a convenience store.

The announcement came a day after the killing of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, who authorities say was confronted by police after an anonymous caller said he had threatened someone with a gun outside the store where he was selling home-made CDs.

In a cell phone video taken by a community activist and posted online, two officers had Sterling pinned to the ground, and gunfire erupted moments after someone yelled, "He's got a gun! Gun!"

"I have very serious concerns. The video is disturbing, to say the least," Governor John Bel Edwards said in announcing that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division would lead the investigation.

The Baton Rouge police chief confirmed that Sterling was armed but there are still questions about what happened.

Chief Carl Dabadie Jr called the shooting a tragedy and said, "Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand. And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers."

The shooting fuelled anger and protests in Baton Rouge, with community leaders and Sterling's family demanding a federal investigation and the firing of the police chief.

In Washington, Justice Department spokesman David Jacobs said the FBI and the US attorney's office in Louisiana will also take part in the investigation.

The Justice Department investigation will look into whether the officers wilfully violated Sterling's civil rights through the use of unreasonable or excessive force.

Similar investigations, which often take many months, were opened following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.

Quinyetta McMillan, the mother of Sterling's teenage son, trembled as she read a statement outside City Hall, where a few dozen protesters and community leaders had gathered. Her son, Cameron, 15, broke down in tears and was led away as his mother spoke.

She described Sterling as "a man who simply tried to earn a living to take care of his children.

"The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis," she said.