Not Charging the Officers Who Killed Alton Sterling Is a Travesty

Update: On March 30, the Baton Rouge Police Department released disturbing body camera video of the police killing of Alton Sterling, and announced that Officer Blane Salamoni, who shot Sterling six times, would be fired.

On March 27, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that his office would not bring criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling as he lay pinned by them to the ground in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge.

Attorney General Landry’s decision is two contradictory things: It is shocking, and it is unsurprising. The decision sends a clear message about policing in America today, and highlights the continuing crisis of accountability when it comes to unlawful use of excessive and deadly force by police.

The failure to hold police accountable for the killings of Black men and boys is standard practice at both the local and federal level. Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s so-called “top cop,” and his Department of Justice concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring federal civil rights charges against the officers involved in Sterling’s death. And, while the Baton Rouge Police Chief said disciplinary hearings would be held for the officers this week, the officers who killed Sterling, and whose killing of Sterling was caught on video, both remain employed by the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Sterling was one of 233 Black people shot and killed by the police in 2016. And while the national media spotlight on police violence has faded, the death toll has remained steady. The Washington Post Police Shooting Database records show 2934 people shot and killed by police between 2015 and 2017. That’s nearly 1000 deaths per year. Earlier this month, police officers in Sacramento fired 20 rounds at Stephon Clark, who was unarmed and standing in his own backyard. He died of the wounds inflicted on him by law enforcement. As did Danny Ray Thomas, another unarmed Black man, a man in mental distress, who was killed by police in Harris County, Texas, just days ago.

Sterling’s death is a glaring reminder that police officers too often use aggressive tactics and excessive force, informed by implicit bias rather than community protection. Upon first arriving at the scene, one of the officers reportedly put a gun to Sterling’s head and said “I’ll kill you, bitch.” The AG’s report describes the officer as giving Sterling a “stern” warning: “Don’t fucking move or I’ll shoot you in your fucking head.”

A death threat is not an acceptable warning. And, coming from police and directed at Black and brown people, death is too often the result. The ACLU of Louisiana and partner organizations are working to reform police practices to combat these killings.

Some reforms are already under way. In November 2016, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, and the City of Baton Rouge committed to use only the level of force objectively reasonable to bring an incident under control, and use deescalation techniques when dealing with protesters. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, who took office in January 2017, has successfully pushed for implicit bias training, a stronger use-of-force policy, and expanded the use of body cameras to the entire police force.

That the officers who killed Sterling have not been charged is by no means the end of this fight. There are questions that must be answered about Sterling’s death, and we demand that all body camera and surveillance footage of the incident be released. We demand accountability, equal justice, and an end to racialized policing.

Alton Sterling didn’t have to die on the pavement that night. The Baton Rouge police officers chose aggression. They chose to shoot Sterling six times. We must address and dismantle the conditions that led the officers to use deadly force when it was not needed or legal. We must end the epidemic of police violence once and for all — and bring accountability to this broken system.

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K Radke

You probably should look into Sterlings toxicology test. He was high on meth, crack, pot, opioids,, and was drunk when he was shot. Stop the fake outrage and racist bs the man was obviously a threat to the cops.

TWC

Our son graduated LSU grad school 2013 and lived mere blocks from where this execution occurred. I join you from Canada in condemning this heinous, unnecessary and completely avoidable assault on Mr. Sterling. Forget about God blessing America until crimes like this are eliminated and those who perpetrate and cover for them are brought to justice.

Kyle

Wow, that was an amazing article. You literally didn't bring anything to the table except your awful politics. The Alton Sterling story has been unraveled over and over, he was reaching for a gun, he was uncooperative and violent, please just stop and PLEASE check out the facts of the story. Stop spreading propaganda.

Anonymous

What a bunch of crap. Alton Sterling was a criminal who had reportedly threatened another person with a gun prior to the officers arriving. What's very clear from all the videos is that Sterling never cooperated with the police and used his size to resist the officers. Sterling attempted to stall the officers by engaging in a "What did I do?" distraction knowing that he had a gun in his pocket. After going to the ground Sterling continued to resist and attempted to get the gun out of his pocket. He made bad choices and unfortunately paid for it with his life. Had he done as instructed from the beginning he might be in jail but he would be alive. This is on him.

Anonymous

What's clear you need to take your meds.

Anonymous

Considering that they make cell phones that can transform into guns I believe the police have every reason to assume that in that area drug dealers very well could be carrying something like that !!
2nd why would they charge the officers before the investigation is complete. Just to appease the masses of African Americans seeking there heads on a stick

Anonymous

Wow this is the first I heard of him having a gun on him . My opinion has changed. I to was outraged by this at first
Now knowing he had a gun that was not mentioned on abc nbc news . The president was right they spread there agenda without all the facts . .
Does anyone know where I can get unbiased news real news ??

Anonymous

It is ALSO a travesty that endorses anti-white racism.

Dr. Timothy Leary

After a through examination of all the facts surrounding the demise of Mr. Sterling I have determined that he should have been shot a long time ago.

Anonymous

Maga

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