The two Baton Rouge, La., policemen who were involved in
the
shooting death of Alton Sterling
will not face federal
charges in the case, according to a report citing “four
sources” from
the Washington Post
. The incident, caught on video, was one
of several in which African-Americans died at the hands of law
enforcement, spurring massive protests and in two incidents,
violence against police.

The Department of Justice has not made an official statement
and Sterling’s family has not been notified of the agency’s
reported plan to decline filing violation of civil rights
charges against officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake.
The Post reported that the DOJ has concluded its investigation
into the case. Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston
Broome said she has not been informed of the decision by the
DOJ, nor has Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards,
according to the Baton Rouge Advocate
.

Sterling, 37, was confronted by Salamoni and Lake last July 5
in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge while he was
selling CDs there. The officers had received an anonymous tip
that Sterling had threatened the caller with a gun. The
officers wrestled Sterling to the ground, but in a video of the
incident one officer can be heard yelling “he’s got a gun!”
Soon after shots rang out, fatally wounding Sterling. Officers
said in later affidavits that they saw a gun butt in his
pocket, but it is not clear from the video that he was
reaching for any weapon.

The shooting came one day before the
fatal police shooting of Philando Castile
, who was killed
in a traffic stop by a suburban Minneapolis officer. That
officer, Jeronimo Yanez, 28, has been charged with manslaughter
and has pleaded not guilty. But that shooting along with
Sterling’s spawned massive nationwide demonstrations over the
large number of Blacks who die at the hands of police. At a
protest in Dallas two days after Sterling was killed, a sniper
identified as
Micah Xavier Johnson
, ambushed and killed five officers in
an act of revenge. He was cornered and killed by a police
robotic vehicle.

On July 17, Gavin Eugene Long, said to be enraged by Sterling’s
death went on a rampage, killing three officers. In a video
detailing his anger, he defended Johnson calling what he did
“justice.” He died in a gun battle with police.

The decision by the DOJ is the first development in a
high-profile case involving a police shooting of an
African-American announced by the department under its new
head, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As the news spread of the
decision, the department immediately fell under criticism by
those who believed the announcement was imminent. The harshest
criticism was reserved for how the information got out in the
first place.

“The Department of Justice’s failure to communicate with the
community has created angst and nervousness, and I fear carries
the potential for increased tension between the community and
law enforcement,” Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, whose congressional
district includes a portion of Baton Rouge, wrote to Sessions
on Friday, according to the Post. “It is inappropriate and
against the interests of public safety . . . to allow this
level of uncertainty to continue.”

Activists who had been following the case voiced their
frustration with the DOJ’s decision.

“There is no other way to read this decision from the
Department of Justice, which issued no charges to the police
officers who tased Alton Sterling, held him down on the ground,
and shot him in the chest and back,” said Rashad Robinson,
executive director of Color of Change. “A Black man who was
selling CD’s was summarily executed, and the Attorney General
sees nothing wrong with that.”

LEAVE A REPLY