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A disturbing video of a Louisiana man shot to death while pinned down by police has set off a wave of protests

Reuters/Bryn Stole
People chanted “Black Lives Matter!”
  • Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

This post has been updated.

Alton Sterling, a black man who sold CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was shot and killed by two police officers  after they pinned him down to the ground at 12:35am on Tuesday (July 5). The incident was captured by a bystander on a smartphone video. Officers can be heard yelling “He’s got a gun! Gun!” while Sterling is restrained.

The US Department of Justice will investigate the case, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. The US Attorney’s Office and the FBI will assist in the civil rights investigation, ceded by the local police entirely to the federal agencies. “Early yesterday morning we experienced a horrible tragedy,” said during a press conference Carl Dabadie, the Baton Rouge police chief. He named the two officers in the incident: 4-year police veteran Blane Salamoni and 3-year veteran Howie Lake II.

The store owner, who witnessed the shooting, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that the police were aggressive, and the man did not appear to be holding a gun or touching his pockets. He said they did retrieve a gun from Sterling’s pocket after they shot him. Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back. According to The Guardian, he was the 558th person to be killed by US police in 2016.

Warning: the clip contains graphic footage.

The officers were responding to a 911 call in which an anonymous caller said that Sterling had pointed a gun at him. According to the store owner, the officers who came to the scene initially used a Taser on Sterling, but he did not fall to the ground.

Salamoni and Lake have been placed on paid administrative leave. Local news channel WAFB reported that “body cameras worn by both officers fell off during the incident and do not show the shooting,” according to a state legislator who was briefed by police. There is also video footage, not yet released, from the convenience store and the police car’s dash camera.

The shooting sparked protests outside the convenience store on Tuesday evening, where people chanted “Black Lives Matter!” Protesters were outside Baton Rouge’s city hall Wednesday morning.

#AltonSterling began trending on Twitter Tuesday night, with prominent members of the black community expressing outrage over the incident.

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