Sterling shooting: Rallies held in honor of man killed in police shooting
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People have gathered across Baton Rouge Thursday to participate in rallies and vigils remembering a man who was killed in an officer-involved shooting early Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday, July 5, police received a call from an individual who claimed a man threatened the caller with a gun outside of the Triple S Food Mart on N. Foster Drive. The caller allegedly told police the man had a gun and threatened someone.
Officials say Officer Blane Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake II responded to the call. They say an altercation ensued between the officers and 37-year-old Alton Sterling, who was allegedly outside the store selling CDs.
The store owner, who witnessed the shooting, said things quickly got out of control. One officer used a stun gun on Sterling, then the other officer tackled Sterling to the ground. According to the store owner, the officers shot Sterling four to six times shortly after he was tackled.
An autopsy conducted by the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office revealed that Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to his back and chest.
Officials said both officers had on body cameras, but they fell off during the struggle and do not show the shooting. However, authorities were analyzing dash cam video and store surveillance video, which are believed to have captured the ordeal.
A preliminary investigation by Baton Rouge police determined only one of the two officers fired their weapon at the scene. Sources close to the case told the 9News Investigators that Officer Blane Salamoni, a four-year veteran of the force, is the officer believed to have fired all of the shots.
Officials announced late Wednesday morning that the investigation would be handed over to the FBI. 19th Judicial District Attorney Hillar Moore said Thursday afternoon that the district attorney's office would not make a move on the case until the federal investigators wrapped up their investigation.
The officers were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which is standard procedure. On Wednesday evening, Moore confirmed that both officers said that they felt their actions were justified just after the shooting.
Hundreds of people have visited the site where Sterling died since Tuesday evening in protest and remembrance. A memorial has been growing in honor of Sterling outside the convenience store where the shooting happened, and a mural has been put up on the side of the building.
A prayer vigil was held at the Living Faith Christian Center near where Sterling was shot. Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke at the event. A rally was going on outside the building while the vigil took place.
Local NAACP president Michael McClanahan confirmed there will be a rally at the governmental building downtown Friday and said the group will now start thinking long-term.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for people to donate to a scholarship fund for Sterling's children, including his eldest son who is 15-year-old.
On Wednesday, Sterling's mother told the media that Sterling had a prior history with police including felony arrests.
A lawyer from South Carolina has been hired to represent the mother of Alton Sterling's oldest son and plans to hold a press conference outside the Triple S Food Mart.
Attorney L. Chris Stewart and Justin Bamberg have represented numerous families killed by members of law enforcement.
The history of the two BRPD officers showed complaints of force filed against them. The 9News Investigators combed through 660 pages of documents, specifically looking into their pasts.
Gov. John Bel Edwards responded to criticism of the decision to hand the investigation over to the US Department of Justice while speaking to CNN Thursday morning. He told the news organization, "… we're making the best decisions to make sure that the situation remains under control here in Baton Rouge …"
President Obama released a statement early Thursday responding to the recent officer-involved shootings on Facebook. After landing in Poland Thursday evening, Obama addressed the media about the shooting as well as another police shooting that happened in Minnesota Wednesday night.
Together Baton Rouge organizers said more than 100 faith and community leaders gathered a news conference Thursday morning "to issue a specific call to action to instill full public trust in the integrity of the investigation into the police shooting of Alton Sterling."
A self-proclaimed ex-gangster turned anti-violence advocate said his production crew arrived to the Triple S Food Mart just in time to record the shooting of Alton Sterling on a cell phone.
The cell phone footage shot by Silky Slim's production crew surfaced on Tuesday evening. It shows a portion of the struggle and the shooting. In the video, Sterling is seen on the ground with the two officers on top of him. At that point, one officer says, "he's got a gun" and then shots can be heard.
Another cell phone video from a private citizen emerged Wednesday afternoon. The graphic video, which was shot from a much closer distance, shows the two Baton Rouge police officers struggling with Sterling.
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