Alton Sterling Killed by Police in Baton Rouge. Will Officers Be Charged?

It’s a story that has become heart-breakingly familiar: An encounter between an African-American and white police officers turns deadly and a family mourns the loss of yet another victim of police brutality. The only thing that varies is the city and the number of times the victim was shot. Sadly, the one thing that never seems to change is the lack of consequences for the officers involved.

So far, the news of the murder of Alton Sterling is following that same pattern. The 37-year-old man was shot multiple times in the chest and back during an altercation with two white officers who were called to the scene after a report alleging Sterling was threatening someone with a gun while selling CDs on the sidewalk in front of a store. The store manager says he saw no such incident, and that Sterling “never got into fights,” telling CNN, “Just five minutes before he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, (and we were) calling each other names.”

As per usual, there are discrepancies in the story of how Sterling ended up dead. Officers claim Sterling tried to use a gun against them. Meanwhile, the store owner said that Sterling was thrown on a car, and that he believes a stun gun was used before Sterling was shot. Police officials say that the record will be cleared up as soon as they review video they took from cameras at the store, as well as video from body cameras the officers were wearing at the time – although they warned the body cam videos may not help much as they were jostled lose during the incident.

But eyewitnesses took their own cell phone video, and that graphic video leaves a number of questions to be answered. “‘Get on the ground, get on the ground’ is heard before two officers confront a man in a red T-shirt. One officer tackles the man, throwing him on the hood of the car and onto the ground. The second officer climbs on and helps hold him down,” reports NBC. “One officer appears to shout a warning: ‘He’s got a gun! Gun!’ While the man is on the ground, one officer pulls out his gun. He holds it to the back of the man’s head or neck. Shouting is heard, and then two pops — as the camera quickly cuts away. At least two more pops are heard. Background voices are heard saying ‘Oh, my God,’ and ‘They shot him?’ and ‘They killed this boy.’ ‘Oh, my God,’ a woman’s voice shrieks.” A video released from the store owner also shows the scuffle, including a gun being pulled out of Sterling’s pocket after he was already down.

If the deaths of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Jamar Clark and others have taught us anything, though, it is that when it comes to investigating and prosecuting their own, the police are notoriously inept. In Baton Rouge, La., this is sadly even worse, since a “Police Bill of Rights” is in effect to protect officers being investigated. It includes the ability to wait as long as 30 days before answering any questions about an incident.

“…[T]he Police Bill of Rights also restricts the amount of time that officers may be interrogated and provides them with the ability to demand breaks for ‘reasonable periods,’ granting officers ‘rest’ and the ability to tend to ‘personal necessities.’ The Police Bill of Rights only applies to internal investigations—but in low-profile cases of wrongdoing, those are often the only investigations that occur,” writes Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. “While some of the special rights granted to police officers are fairly benign, others are seriously troubling for criminal justice reformers. The 30-day grace period, in particular, could allow officers suspected of misconduct to get their stories straight amongst themselves before talking to investigators—in order to present a favorable narrative with no inconsistencies. That risk would be especially strong in a case like Sterling’s, where the most important witness to the alleged crime was the victim himself.”

Luckily the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights division has taken over the investigation, hopefully adding an impartial element that can find out the true story of what happened to Sterling when he was with the officers and whether there was any sort of justification for the violence he faced and his murder at the hands of the police. Still, even when the Department has intervened, that doesn’t mean that the officers are always held accountable for the death of those in their custody.

We need answers, and charging the officers involved will get that started. Please sign and share the Care2 petition demanding that Alton Sterling gets the justice he deserves.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

130 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thank you very much for sharing

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers2 years ago

By all accounts Micah Johnson was a patriot. He fully exercised his 2nd amendment rights in standing up to a tyrannical government and system. That is the excuse Americans use to keep guns, that they need it stand against a tyrannical government!
Wasn't he doing exactly that? Or do you have to be white to qualify? Yes. It's about time that blacks start shooting back.

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Brian F.
Brian F2 years ago

Another murder by the thugs who protect the 1% In what profession can people get paid leave and wait as long as 30 days before answering any questions about an incident? We need to change the Bill of Rights for the police. They have way too much power. In addition corrupt judges exonerate them as we see in the Freddie Gray case. It is very hard to convict a police officer in America, because the laws protect them. Also the no snitch policy and Blue Wall of Silence needs to change, so other officers will stand up and call out the bad officers. We also need an independent agency to investigate police shootings, because the internal affairs does nothing, but sweep any incident under the rug. The police cannot police them selves because they are corrupt. we need a complete over hall of the entire protocol. As we saw in the Occupy protest, when innocent demonstrators were criminalized and pepper sprayed, the police are just the paid thugs, who protect the 1%.

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers2 years ago

Of course they should be charged! The problem is still that stupid 2nd amendment. Too many guns! The argument for, is that guns will be needed by citizens to protect themselves from a tyrannical system. ...Then doesn't that justify the shooter of the 5 cops? He has been hounded by a tyrannical system that jails and kills blacks for little or no reason. So he trains himself and is now a well regulated militia who took up arms against his tyrant. He should be a poster boy for the NRA! Or do you specifically have to be white to get that dubious honour?

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Jolene Pope
Jolene Pope2 years ago

You know in discussing all of the incidents of the past three days with people I know one of them said this guy Alton was not a bad shoot because he had a criminal record. Some of the information he used to justify his position I will not repeat because I have not heard it anywhere but from his mouth. The problem is there are white people and I am white that think this way. I advised I saw the video and it looked like and unjustified shooting to me. It is true we cannot see what he was doing with his hands, but it does appear that two officers had him pinned good an a taser probably would have stopped him long enough to cuff him and remove his gun. If the officers say they felt he was reaching for the gun in his pocket they will probably not face any charges. The more attention this problem gets the more it keeps happening. I cried when I saw the press conference with his son crying. This has got to stop. No more unjustified deaths at the hands of police officers. I commend his wife for speaking calmly against the shootings of police officers in Dallas with all she is going through. Shooting innocent police officers is not the answer either. I ask President Obama to lead on this issue we need to have town hall discussions on this issue we need to confront racism in America we need to find a way to stop the killing and heal the nation. I don't think we should wait for a killing to get the justice department involved maybe they should request all police forces review their u

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Marc P.
Marc P2 years ago

Margie FOURIE: You state, "Perhaps we should get the full story before apportioning blame." We SAW the 'full story' live, on video, while it was happening. We saw the man in cuffs. We saw the man being shot multiple times at point blank range. And after he was shot we saw police pull a gun OUT OF THE MAN'S POCKET! Perhaps if you took a moment to pull YOUR head out of your rectum, you would have seen this as well....

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Marc P.
Marc P2 years ago

Amanda A.: Regarding your ignorant comment, "...Still have yet to see a story about the police officers killed last night. Way to further your biased agenda..." What exactly does police being killed have to do with a criminal in a uniform executing a man??? NOTHING! They are 2 SEPARATE issues. Your attempt to link the 2 together is not only completely asinine, but completely idiotic as well.

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Marc P.
Marc P2 years ago

Jamie Clemons: Of COURSE we should be defending the murder of ANY person! What is the next group of people you would choose not do defend??? When we defend the person, regardless of his past, we defend OUR OWN rights. We defend the Constitution, and Rule Of Law. You are basically saying "Since a court of law didn't kill this person it is perfectly OK for the State to murder him extrajudicially. Without trial or Due Process." How can you believe that and claim to be a loyal American???

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Amanda A.
Mandi A2 years ago

Still have yet to see a story about the police officers killed last night. Way to further your biased agenda

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