Alton Sterling shooting: 18 months and no resolution

Alton Sterling shooting: 18 months and no resolution
Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II
Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II
Source: Dillon Baxter
Source: Dillon Baxter

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Friday January 5, 2018 marks exactly one-and-a-half years since the deadly shooting of Alton Sterling by a Baton Rouge police officer.

549 days.

Both officers on the scene of the shooting have been on paid administrative since day one. One year and six months ago.

Sterling was black. The two officers are white.

The U.S. Department of Justice, tasked with deciding whether the officers violated Sterling's civil rights, announced last May the officers would not face any federal charges.

That decision took 302 days.

The case now lies on the state level and the office of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

THE STATE'S CASE

Landry, who will decide if the officers will face any state charges such as manslaughter, has had the case for 247 days. Through his spokeswoman this week, the attorney general declined to say when his decision might come.

Some have speculated Landry has been waiting for the new Baton Rouge police chief to take over. That happened earlier this week.

The last chief, Carl Dabadie, resigned last summer after the newly-elected mayor said she believed the police force needed new leadership, particularly in light of the Sterling shooting.

THE SHOOTING

The shooting happened on July 5, 2016 when two Baton Rouge police officers responded to a report that a man was threatening another man with a gun.

Officers arrived to find their suspect, Alton Sterling, standing in front of a convenience store. Sterling and the officers struggled. One of the officers, Blane Salamoni, opened fire on Sterling after yelling that Sterling had a gun.

A gun was later pulled from the pocket of Sterling, who died at the scene.

An attorney for Sterling's family says federal investigators told him that when Salamoni first arrived on the scene, the officer put a gun to Sterling's head and threatened to kill him.

Sterling was a registered sex offender with a long criminal history including convictions for battery and illegal possession of a gun.

A police report indicates he was in a similar situation with Baton Rouge police in 2009. In that case, an officer who was questioning Sterling claimed Sterling began fighting with him. "While wrestling with this subject (Sterling) on the ground, a black semi-automatic gun fell from the subject's waistband," the report states.

The 37-year-old was the father of five.

Two different versions of cell phone footage that captured portions of the shooting have been widely circulated.

Video from a police dashboard camera and the store surveillance cameras, however, have not yet been made public as they are part of the ongoing state probe.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Large-scale demonstrations and calls for justice unfolded in the weeks following Sterling's death.

Dozens were arrested during protests across the city and country.

Locally, law enforcement braced for the possibility of even more large demonstrations after the federal decision came, but those never happened.

Many speculated the number of protesters was low because the federal decision was not unexpected. That's partly because many black leaders made it clear ahead of time that they did not expect federal charges to be brought.

RELATED: Officials release statements regarding DOJ declining charges in Sterling case

Those leaders pointed out it is a very difficult burden to prove that someone's civil rights were violated and the feds have rarely been able to do so.

The possibility of any future large-scale protests now lies heavily on the decision from the state.

The state's decision, whether either or both officers will be charged with Sterling's death, is seen as more clear cut and less difficult to reach.

THE OFFICERS

The two officers involved gave initial statements in the hours following the shooting but have not given any further statements to investigators.

Sources say the officers declined requests to speak to both federal and state investigators. Their attorney this week would not confirm that, but stopped short of denying it.

While both officers continue to be on paid leave, a decision has still not been made about whether they will face any disciplinary measures by the department or cleared of wrongdoing.

18 months later, their future with the Baton Rouge Police Department and the decision about whether to file any state criminal charges against them, remains a mystery.

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