Communities

Department Of Justice To Investigate Police Killing of Alton Sterling In Baton Rouge

by Jesse Hirsch

July 6, 2016
Alton Sterling (Facebook photo)

After yet another brutal police killing of a black civilian, this time in Baton Rouge, the federal Department of Justice is poised to get involved.

The victim in this case is a 37-year-old named Alton Sterling, who was filmed (Warning: graphic content) being gunned down by two police officers in front of a convenience store where he was selling CDs.

Sterling’s death has touched off a rash of protests in Baton Rouge and nationwide, and members of Congress made vocal calls for a federal inquiry. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced this morning that the DOJ would be launching an official investigation.

Sterling’s death is no less pretty as a statistic than it is as a brutal incident: According to the Washington Post, which now keeps a database for this very purpose, he was at least the 505th person to be shot and killed by police officers in 2016. We very well may top 2015’s stats, which clocked in at a startling 986 police killings.

The Post database was set up in response to an epidemic of high-profile police shootings in 2015, all with unarmed African American men as victims. The thought is that tracking these incidents in the aggregate will display patterns, prevent them from being ignored and -- hope of hopes -- reduce these killings in the future.

Details on the events leading to Sterling’s death are hazy. The police department’s position is that he appeared to be reaching for a gun (the presence of a gun remains in question) when the officers shot him. It is notable that every person killed by the Baton Rouge PD in the last three years has been black and male.

As of presstime, neither officer had given a statement to investigators. Baton Rouge Cpl. L’Jean McKneely told the Advocate: “’We give officers normally a day or so to go home and think about it’ before being interviewed.” 

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Department Of Justice To Investigate Police Killing of Alton Sterling In Baton Rouge