“If not for the cell phone video, I don’t think that much would have come out of this,” Edmond Jordan, the family attorney of Alton Sterling, told Mark Thompson. “The story would have been simply that he reached for a gun, that he had a gun on him and that would have been the narrative. We’re very thankful that the cell phone video has come out and now we can maybe get this truth in this matter.”
Graphic cellphone videos depicts two Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers pushing 37-year-old Sterling onto the hood of a car before tackling and pinning him to the ground. One officer appears to be holding his gun near Sterling’s chest as he was being held down. Sterling was shot and killed Tuesday.
“What I have been told is that when [the officers] showed up, that they immediately became very aggressive told Alton,” Jordan told Joe Madison. “He questioned why they were there.”
The two white officers involved in the shooting responded to an anonymous caller who claimed that a man selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart had threatened him with a gun. They were in the process of arresting Sterling when the shooting took place.
“Alton Sterling is different … I think he is the first person who’s been killed by police in 2016 whose name the country knows,” Shaun King, a writer for the New York Daily News, told Karen Hunter. “This case is so egregious and so ugly and it’s strangely relatable. We all know the CD man. We all know the brother who’s selling CDs and DVDs in the barber shop.”
Officers were equipped with body cameras, but according to a police department spokesperson, both cameras “came loose and detangled from the officers’ uniforms during the incident.” Jordan was told “there was some audio and some video” from the cameras but local authorities didn’t deem it as useful.
“I don’t think [body cameras] are a key part to ending police violence,” Johnetta “Netta” Elzie of Black Lives Matters told Alter Family Politics. “I do think they can be helpful if the parameters around them are very strict and there should be some type of consequence if body cam footage is manipulated or the body cams period are manipulated.”
“Had they not had that phone [footage], Alton Sterling would be another one of those anonymous names that none of us knew about, none of us understood his story,” King added.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the United States attorney’s office in Baton Rouge took control of the case on Wednesday. Law enforcement and elected officials in Louisiana promised they would fully cooperate with the federal investigation.
“No department should investigate itself, especially in an officer involved shooting,” Jordan said. “We weren’t confident that the city would do the right thing on this.”
“Even the DOJ does not have an impressive track record of prosecuting police,” King lamented. “They’ll come in and say some things to police departments about what they need to do, but they have a terrible track record of actually holding police accountable for their violations. … I’m not encouraged at all about what comes next.”
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