Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old Black man, was shot and killed point blank by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, La., onJuly 5, 2016,outside of a convenience store where he sold CDs. A video captured by a bystander went viral, prompting protests and outrage across the country.
The U.S. Justice Department led by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not charge the Baton Rouge officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The decision highlights Sessions and his approach to civil rights that was first rebuked in a letter of testimony by the late Coretta Scott King. It marks the first time the Justice Department under Sessions has publicly declined to prosecute officers investigated for possible wrongdoing in a high-profile case.
The New York Times reports the decision in the death of Sterling was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by two people familiar with the case.It was unclear how and when the Justice Department would announce its findings, the Washington Post reported, citing four people familiar with the matter.
Lawyers for the Sterling family said they had not been informed of a decision.
“We have not heard nor received an update and are unaware of any charges that may or may not be filed,” Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the Sterling family’s attorneys, said.
“We have not received word, nor has the family been given any notice of upcoming updates regarding this case.”
According to the Post, local police and city officials have said this week that they believed the Justice Department’s decision was imminent. Several local lawmakers have publicly called on the Justice Department to end the suspense. Some local schools have sent notes to parents informing them of action plans in case of major protests.
The Justice Department has not communicated to anyone a decision regarding the officers involved in the case, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN.
Tuesday night in the Triple S Food Mart parking lot, the convenience store where Sterling was killed, dozens of people participated in a prayer vigil.
“It’s been almost a year and we’re still suffering like it was yesterday,” the victim’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, said. “We need closure. We need conviction. We need justice.”
Protests erupt in Baton Rouge following release of cellphone video; Alton Sterling’s family, NAACP call for police chief to resign.
Cellphone video taken on the night of Sterling’s death shows him being taken to the ground by two officers. As Sterling is pinned to the ground, one of the officers yells, “He’s got a gun!” Then the otherofficer yells, “You fg move, I swear to God.” After that, a series of gunshots is heard.Sterling died at the scene.
View the video (Warning graphic content):
A statement from the Baton Rouge Police Department said the shooting occurred around 12:35 a.m. Officers were called to the scene responding to a complainant that stated “a Black male who was selling music CDs and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun,” according to the BRPD. The department said after officers confronted Sterling in the parking lot an altercation ensued.
According toWAFB, Abdul Muflahi, the convenience store owner who knew Sterling well, said one officer used a Taser on Sterling, and a second officer tackled him. Then the first officer fired shots, Muflahi said.
He also told CNN that he didn’t see a prior confrontation between Sterling and anyone that night. In addition, he was not aware of any incident that someone would have called about.
“Just five minutes before,”Muflahisaid, “he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, [and we were] calling each other names.”