Protests erupted in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tuesday evening after police shot and killed a 37-year-old father of five outside a convenience store earlier in the day, WBRZ reports.
The man, identified as Alton Sterling, was reportedly selling CDs outside the Triple-S on North Foster Drive and Fairfields Avenue when police approached him. According to the local station, police said they responded to an anonymous call that a man was carrying a firearm while selling music. When they arrived, shortly after 12:30 a.m., an “altercation” ensued and one of the officers shot and killed Sterling as he lay pinned to the ground.
Louisiana is an open-carry state. Sterling is the 558th person to be killed by police, according to the Guardian:
A graphic video taken by a bystander shows Sterling’s last moments, as police bring him to the ground to restrain him. With Sterling pinned, an officer draws an object from his waistband. Multiple gunshots can be heard as the witness taking the video drops the camera. A woman can be heard crying in the background, confirming that police shot Sterling.
The East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office said Sterling died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back, WBRZreports:
The store’s owner Abdul Muflahi said he was just a few feet away when he watched the shooting happen. He said at first Sterling and the officers were arguing. Then he said he saw the officers wrestle with Sterling against a car, throw him to the ground, and tase him in order to subdue him. After tasing him, according to Muflahi, Sterling appeared to be unfazed and police shot Sterling four to six times.
“I don’t think it was handled correctly at all,” said Muflahi. “It could have been handled, the situation, better than it did.”
Muflahi said Sterling did carry a gun, but he did not have it in his hand during the altercation with police. He said he saw police remove a gun from Sterling’s pant’s pocket after he was shot to death.
Sterling, who was known in the neighborhood as the CD man, started carrying a gun after a friend of his was robbed, Muflahi added.
The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. The incident, reminiscent of the killing of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and other Black men killed by police, is already tinged with the sentiment the cops will not be disciplined. Gov. John Bel Edwards recently signed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill – a measure that names public safety workers as a protected class under a hate crime – into law. Many see it as another layer of protection for cops who are often not indicted or held accountable in police-involved shootings.
Protesters, family members, and friends of Sterling flooded the streets Tuesday evening, calling for justice and transparency.
“Pretty much everybody who knows him knows he’s a sweet person,” his sister, Mignon Chambers, told CNN affiliate WVLA. Of his killing, she says, “it wasn’t right, and something needs to be done.”
The body cameras worn by the police officers reportedly fell off during the altercation. Authorities are reviewing surveillance tape from the convenience store. Mayor Kip Holden, in a conversation with WBRZ, insisted that a “full and fair investigation” will be conducted.