BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There's still no official word on when federal investigators will announce their decision regarding the police shooting death of Alton Sterling. Louisiana law enforcement authorities say they expect they will only be notified a few days before the decision is publicly announced.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and members of local and state law enforcement met Monday, November 21 to prepare for the possibility of more protests once the Department of Justice's announcement is made, but stressed that the meeting, which was planned weeks ago, should not be a sign that a decision is imminent.
Multiple well-connected law enforcement sources, frequently consulted by WAFB, said Monday they have no knowledge of whether the decision could be days, weeks, or even months away. Governor Edwards also said Monday he has no knowledge of when the decision could come down. One person who would know, U.S. Attorney Walt Green, has consistently declined to comment on a possible time frame.
Months ago, sources speculated the decision might come down this week because many schools are out for the Thanksgiving holiday and there is no LSU home football game this week. LSU is a factor because many officers are required to work games and those same officers might be needed to assist with any protests. However, the likelihood of a decision coming this week now seems very unlikely. Louisiana State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson said Monday he expects law enforcement will be given at least a 2-day notice of any federal decision in order to give them time to prepare.
Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was fatally shot on July 5 by one of two BRPD officers who responded to a call that a man selling CDs had used a gun to threaten someone outside of a convenience store. The shooting followed a struggle between Sterling and police shortly after the two officers arrived on scene. Both of the officers are white. Police said they found a gun in Sterling's pocket.
Portions of the shooting were captured by at least two cell phone cameras. Store surveillance camera recordings, which possibly captured more, are in the custody of federal investigators.
The federal probe is focused on whether either or both of the officers violated Sterling's civil rights through the use of excessive or unreasonable force. Many legal experts say that is often a high burden to prove. Any such finding could possibly result in criminal charges. The DOJ could also issue their thoughts on whether BRPD as a whole has any systemic issues related to civil rights.
State investigators said early on in the Sterling probe that they would wait until the federal investigation is concluded before deciding whether to pursue any state criminal charges against the officers involved. While they have not mentioned any specific charges they might consider, one example of a state charge is manslaughter. District Attorney Hillar Moore, citing a personal relationship with the parents of one of the officers involved, declined for his office to handle the case. Because of that, the state case now lies with the Louisiana Attorney General's office.
Nearly 200 people were arrested at protests in Baton Rouge during the several weeks that immediately followed the Sterling shooting. Police on the scene of many of those protests were criticized by some for the tactics they used, particularly the "riot style" gear that many of them wore. BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie said Monday police will respond to any future protests "as least aggressively as we can."