Louisiana Considers Prosecuting Officers Who Killed Alton Sterling

BATON ROUGE (CN) – Louisiana will investigate whether or not to press charges against the officers responsible for the shooting death of Alton Sterling, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office said Wednesday.

In a press release, Landry said his office would obtain the investigative materials collected by the Department of Justice. According to the release, his office had not seen the evidence before now. A prosecutor from the attorney general’s office will also be assigned to the case.

Landry said he had taken action “to ensure this matter is investigated by the agency with the most expertise in officer-involved shootings.”

He assigned a prosecutor from the Louisiana Department of Justice to assist the Louisiana State Police, claiming that no other unit in the state “has more experience or more expertise in the use of lethal force by law enforcement agents.”

“It is important for the public to know that this matter will be handled by the most professional and proficient law enforcement use of force team in Louisiana,” Landry’s statement continued.

The case went to Landry after East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III recused himself last summer because of a working relationship with the parents of Blaine Salamoni, one of the officers involved in the shooting.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement almost simultaneous to Landry’s Wednesday announcing that it had decided not to prosecute the officers involved in Sterling’s death. According to the DOJ, “the evidence does not meet the substantial evidentiary requirements,” which require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sterling, 37, was shot last July outside a convenience store where he had been selling bootlegged CDs when officers Salamoni and Howie Lake responded to a call that he had threatened someone with a gun.

According to the Department of Justice, Sterling fit the description of the person with the gun.

“This high legal standard – one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law – requires proof that the officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids.  It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake, or even exercised bad judgment,” the Department of Justice said in its statement.

Two separate video clips of the event show Sterling throw his empty hands into the air just before a Taser pops and he is pinned to the ground by two police officers before being fatally shot.

The DOJ report recounts the interaction between Sterling and the police officers, which lasted 90 seconds, step-by step.

The report also said Sterling had a .38-caliber revolver in his pocket – a fact that had been in dispute previously.

“Investigators later confirmed that Sterling’s gun was loaded with six bullets at the time of this exchange,” the report said.

 

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