Officials release statements regarding DOJ declining charges in Sterling case

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The following statements were made following the official announcement from the Department of Justice that it has decided against pursing charges in the Alton Sterling investigation.

100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge

Alton Sterling's death is a tragedy. It is compounded further by the Justice Department's decision not to bring charges against the officers involved in his death. We respect Alton's life and mourn the loss to his family and friends. We also state, categorically, that Mr. Sterling's life mattered. The lives of the young African-American men and women who we mentor, matter and 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge will continue to do everything within its power to help young people reach their full potential. The systematic conditions that led to Mr. Sterling's tragic death must be met head on with love, compassion, and an unwavering determination to help make all of our communities safe and economically vibrant.

Urban League of Louisiana

For ten months, the family of Alton Sterling has patiently waited to learn about the fate of Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) officers involved in their loved one's murder. Yesterday, the family and the rest of the world learned through an article published by the Washington Post that the officers would face no federal civil rights charges. The Sterling family deserved to be notified directly by the Department of Justice long before this decision became front-page news in a national media outlet.

Senator John Kennedy (R - Louisiana)

The U.S. Justice Department has spent months reviewing the tragic death of Alton Sterling. Gov. John Bel Edwards asked federal officials to undertake this review to ensure a fair and unbiased decision on whether charges should be brought against the police officers involved in the case. The Justice Department has now decided not to bring charges. Some will agree with the decision; others will not. We should all express our opinions peacefully and respectfully. The murders of Baton Rouge law enforcement officers last summer were the saddest example of what must be avoided. We do not honor anyone by shedding more blood.

Congressman Garret Graves (R - Baton Rouge)

We cannot allow the tragic shootings of 2016 or the fallout to define us or our community, but we can learn from those experiences.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R - Baton Rouge)

Today, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) released its findings in the death of Alton Sterling. 

In the hours after this July 5, 2016 tragedy, state and local elected officials – as well as community leaders – requested an independent federal investigation by the USDOJ. That precluded state investigations until the federal investigation concluded.

At this time, and due to the nature of their investigation, my office has not been privy to any investigative materials created and collected by the USDOJ. Therefore, I cannot and will not comment on their findings beyond that they were made after an exhaustive investigation and a thorough review of the evidence.

The USDOJ's review of this matter was to determine violations of federal law: specifically, federal civil rights laws. To date, this matter has not been investigated or reviewed for possible violations of the Louisiana Criminal Code. 

Therefore, this matter now needs to be investigated for possible state criminal violations. In order to ensure this matter is investigated by the agency with the most expertise in officer-involved shootings – I have directed the USDOJ to securely forward their investigative materials to the Louisiana State Police (LSP) to conduct the state investigation. And I have assigned a prosecutor from the Louisiana Department of Justice to assist.

LSP has a team of investigators who examine officer-involved shootings for Sheriff's Offices and Police Departments all over the State. They have investigated these types of matters on a routine basis, including their work in Marksville on a case we recently prosecuted against a former deputy marshal. There is no other unit in the State with more experience or more expertise in the use of lethal force by law enforcement agents. Had the USDOJ not been tasked to lead this investigation, there is no doubt LSP would have led the investigation.

It is important for the public to know that this matter will be handled by the most professional and proficient law enforcement use of force team in Louisiana. Once LSP and our assigned prosecutor have reviewed the materials generated by the federal government's civil rights investigation and have conducted any further investigation necessary – my office will meet with them to review their findings, evaluate the evidence, and make the appropriate prosecutorial decision.

This matter was recused to our office for prosecution by the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney; and we will perform our duties in a timely, prudent, and judicious manner when that time comes. As of now, we consider this matter an open investigation by LSP; therefore, we will make no further comment.

A thorough and complete investigation could take a considerable amount of time; as such, we ask for patience from the public and the press.

Congressman Cedric Richmond 

Today's announcement, and the process that led to it, leaves me extremely disappointed. However, I am convinced the fight for justice for Alton Sterling continues. I grieve for Sandra and the entire Sterling family as they have been forced to relive the horror they experienced more than 10 months ago.

LSU President F. King Alexander

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the decision not to prosecute in the Alton Sterling case. The matter will be turned over to the Louisiana Attorney General's Office and State Police. This restarts some of the difficult conversations that began last summer.

Several lawmakers, including Rep. Barabara Carpenter, Rep. Ted James, Rep. Edmond Jordan, Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, Rep. Patricia H. Smith, Sen. Regina Barrow, and Sen. Yvonne Colomb sent the following letter to Jeff Landry regarding the Sterling decision, asking him to conduct a "thorough and expeditious investigation." The full letter can be read below:

Bishop Robert Muench - Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge

The United States Department of Justice has handed down its decision. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision, one thing remains the same: there is a racial divide in our city that exposes a gap of access and opportunity.

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