Federal prosecutors and agents involved in the investigation of Alton Sterling’s death have concluded there’s not enough evidence to charge either officer involved, said Corey Amundson, acting US attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July 2016. Cellphone video showed Sterling was pinned to the ground before he was shot, but police said he was reaching for a gun.
After 10 months of grieving and wondering, Alton Sterling’s family is meeting with Justice Department officials to learn whether police officers will face federal charges for Sterling’s death.
But even before a decision is announced, the family was livid after reports surfaced Tuesday that the Justice Department has decided not to prosecute the two officers.
“It’s not right,” Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, told CNN. “Lord have Mercy. Oh my God.”
Sterling was outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5 last year when officers responded to a report of a man with a gun outside the store. A bystander’s video shows the police pinning Sterling, a black man, to the ground before shooting him, leading to widespread criticism and renewed “Black Lives Matter” protests.
The Washington Post and The New York Times first reported that multiple sources told them the Justice Department, which led the shooting investigation, will not seek charges against the officers.
CNN has not independently confirmed those media reports, which cited unnamed sources.
But DOJ officials will meet with the Sterling family at about 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET) Wednesday, family spokesman Arthur Reed said.
Afterward, officials from the DOJ, the FBI and the US Attorney’s office will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. (2 p.m. ET).
The killing gripped the nation because two bystander videos, each less than a minute long, captured the struggle with officers.
The first bystander video, filmed from inside a car, shows Sterling and Salamoni and Lake, who were answering a 911 report of a man with a gun, standing near a vehicle outside the convenience store.
The camera pans downward and a pop is heard. Someone yells, “Get on the ground!” Another pop, possibly from a Taser, rings out. The convenience store owner said officers twice deployed the devices before the shooting.
An officer rushes Sterling and pulls him to the ground. The other officer assists in restraining Sterling. Someone shouts, “He’s got a gun!”
An officer draws something from his waistband and points it at Sterling. More yelling ensues, followed by two loud bangs, then three more bangs.
The second video shows Sterling on the ground as one officer straddles him and another kneels to his left.
After the gunshots, the camera captures Sterling with a large bloodstain on his chest as an officer lying on the pavement aims his weapon.
As Sterling moves his left arm toward his face and then his chest, the other officer appears to remove something from Sterling’s right pocket. Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said Sterling was armed at the time, and a witness said the officer removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket.
A police incident report does not specify who shot Sterling.
The ‘CD Man’
Sterling was known as the “CD man,” a laid-back guy who sold CDs and DVDs in front of the convenience store on the west side of the city.
The father of five was respected in the community, said Edmond Jordan, the family attorney.
“Alton was out there selling CDs, trying to make a living,” Jordan said. “He was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct.”
A day after Sterling’s death, police shot and killed Philando Castile, 32, in a Minnesota traffic stop streamed on Facebook Live. The Castile shooting upped the intensity of protests around the nation as well as the debates over police violence. An officer was charged with manslaughter in Castile’s death.
On July 7, in Dallas, a gunman ambushed officers, killing five and wounding seven others in the deadliest single incident for US law enforcement since September 11, 2001.
Baton Rouge, a city of 238,000 residents, re-entered the spotlight July 17 when an ex-Marine from Missouri ambushed and killed three law enforcement officers.
Col. Michael D. Edmonson of Louisiana State Police said at the time the killings were “chilling in the sheer brutality.”