BATON ROUGE, La. — Federal prosecutors and agents involved in the investigation of Alton Sterling’s death have concluded there’s not enough evidence to charge either officer involved, Corey Amundson, acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, said Wednesday.
Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, La., in July. Cellphone video showed Sterling was pinned to the ground before he was shot, but police said he was reaching for a gun.
Sterling’s family met with Justice Department officials before the decision was announced. Even before a decision was announced, the family was livid after reports surfaced Tuesday the Justice Department had decided not to prosecute the two officers.
“It’s not right,” said Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling. “Lord have Mercy. Oh my God.”
Sterling, who was black, was outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5 when officers responded to a report of a man with a gun outside the store.
The killing gripped the nation because two bystander videos, each less than a minute long, captured Sterling’s struggle with the two officers, both of whom are white.
Sterling’s fatal encounter with police started when he was standing outside the convenience store where he frequently sold CDs and DVDs. Someone called 911 to report a man outside the store with a gun.
Video shows an officer rushing Sterling and pulling him to the ground. The other officer helps restrain Sterling. Someone shouts, “He’s got a gun!”
The convenience store owner said officers deployed a stun gun twice.
Police eventually manage to pin Sterling to the ground, with one officer straddling him.
In one video, an officer draws something from his waistband and points it at Sterling. As the camera turns away, more yelling ensues, followed by several loud bangs.
Afterward, the camera captures Sterling with a large bloodstain on his chest as an officer on the ground next to him keeps his gun pointed at Sterling.
As Sterling lies fatally wounded, the other officer removes something from Sterling’s right pocket. Police chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said Sterling was armed at the time, and a witness said the officer removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket.
In a search warrant affidavit, a detective wrote that officers saw the butt of a gun in Sterling’s pants pocket, and “the subject attempted to reach for the gun.”
The two officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, were placed on administrative leave. A police incident report does not specify who shot Sterling.
It is unclear whether the state will pursue charges. Sterling’s family said the father of five was minding his own business and did not deserve to die.
“Alton was out there selling CDs, trying to make a living,” family attorney Edmond Jordan said. “He was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct.”