Baton Rouge, Louisiana - As the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that there would be no federal charges brought against Officer Salamoni and Officer Lake for the shooting of Alton Sterling, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has directed the Louisiana State Police to launch a criminal investigation into the shooting.
Chris Stewart, attorney for Alton Sterling's family, said that they met with the DOJ, who presented the information in the case as they explained their decision not to charge the officers federally.
Stewart said that the DOJ told them that when Officer Salamoni first contacted Sterling, before the videos started, he "put a gun to" Sterling's head and said either "I'm going to shoot you in your f-king head," "I'll kill you," or "Bitch, I'm going to kill you." The quote changed each time he told the story, but Officer Salamoni likely threatened to kill Sterling. They offered absolutely no context for what led up to the situation where officers were confronting the armed felon.
Stewart added that the DOJ investigators said that they found Officer Salamoni's actions to be disturbing. Many involved suggested that the bar may be set too high to prosecute the officers federally.
"We would have go prove he (Sterling) wasn't actually going for a gun, and that Salamoni just wanted to shoot him," said Corey Amundson, acting US attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Stewart and Alton Sterling's family are calling for the immediate termination of Officer Salamoni, specifically.
The investigation also said that the officers said that Sterling had actually got his hand on his gun multiple times during the struggle.
There is additional surveillance footage of the shooting which has not been publicly released which shows the whole incident play out.
Lousiana State Attorney General Jeff Landry has announced that he has directed the DOJ to forward the investigation to the Louisiana State Police for a criminal investigation, and that he would be assigning a prosecutor to the case. Once the investigation is complete, Stewart said that they are confident that state charges will be brought against the officers.
Without knowing the other details about why Officer Salamoni was pointing his gun at Sterling, we can't say for sure if that specific action was justified. However, there are absolutely times where it is appropriate for police officers to threaten to kill people who are believed to be posing a deadly threat.
Considering that the officers were confronting a man who was reported for being armed with a gun, that's plenty of justification for pointing a gun at Sterling and threatening to kill him if he reaches for his gun.
Regardless of those circumstances, the actual shooting of Alton Sterling was still reasonable.
A quick review of the shooting: July 5th, 2016 at 12:35 AM, officers were called to the Triple S Food Mart when a man called police to report that Sterling had threatened him with a gun. When the officers confronted Sterling, he refused to cooperate and was Tased. The Taser didn’t work and so one officer tackled Sterling next to a car.
As the officers were on the ground with Sterling, one officer pinned Alton Sterling’s left arm under his knee. However, Sterling’s right arm was under the bumper of the nearby car. The officer on Sterling’s right side was unable to gain control of Sterling’s arm because the car was blocking the officer while Sterling was fighting back.
The officer fighting for Sterling’s right arm yelled, “He’s got a gun! Gun!”
The other officer told Sterling, “Hey bro, if you fucking move, I swear to God,” while the officer held a gun to Sterling’s chest.
Then the officer on Sterling’s right yelled, “Lake, he’s going for the gun!” Gunshots were heard and the shooting video panned away as more shots went off.
Witness, store owner, and self-professed friend of Alton Sterling said that officers then pulled a gun from Sterling’s right pocket.
Alton Sterling’s intent was clear when he fought with officers and tried to grab his gun. He was trying to kill the officers, not pull out his wallet.
Sterling was not legally able to possess a firearm because he was convicted of being a child molester in 2000. That hasn’t stopped him for carrying a firearm though, as he has a history of carrying guns and fighting with the police, as well as battering women. In all, his criminal history is almost 50 pages long.
Sterling had also been previously stopped in a similar incident.
In May 2009, the police were called on Sterling for selling bootleg CDs on a street corner. When the officer stopped him, and asked if he had any weapons, he didn’t answer. The officer proceeded to pat down Alton Sterling when Sterling started reaching for his pocket. Sterling then spun around and started to fight the police officer.
During the struggle, both the officer and Sterling landed on the ground. A black semi-automatic hand gun fell from Sterling’s waist. Luckily, this hero was able to call for assistance and fight him until backup arrived.
Sterling was ultimately arrested for selling illegal CDs, possessing a stolen handgun, possessing marijuana, and resisting arrest. Sterling received a paltry two-year sentence for his multitude of crimes, including attacking a police officer.
The attorneys for Alton Sterling's family are now saying that there's no way that AG Jeff Landry could decline to file charges against the officers, and that the community needs to continue to pressure his office to file charges.
With the overwhelming amount of evidence against Sterling, it's extremely unlikely that any information from the investigation will provide details showing that the shooting was not justified. However, the officers may now have to defend themselves in court after they are criminally charged.