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Sunday 23 October 2016

Family of shot Louisiana man condemns Dallas police deaths

Published 08/07/2016 | 16:36

A protest over the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge (AP)
A protest over the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge (AP)

The mother of the son of a man killed by Louisiana police has denounced the killings of five police officers in Dallas during a protest over police shootings, including the one in which Alton Sterling died in Baton Rouge.

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A statement issued by Quinyetta McMillon's lawyers said "responding to violence with violence is not the answer".

"We wholeheartedly reject the reprehensible acts of violence that were perpetrated against members of the Dallas Police Department," the statement said. "Our hearts break for the families of the officers who were lost as they protected protesters and residents alike during a rally."

Ms McMillon and her son, Cameron Sterling, 15, appeared at a rally outside Baton Rouge's City Hall after Sterling, 37, was shot on Tuesday during a struggle with two police officers outside a convenience store.

Sterling was black, while both officers are white.

On Thursday, protesters gathered for a third night at the store where Mr Sterling was shot as they tried to make sense of recent events, including another fatal shooting of a black man in Minnesota.

Mr Sterling was killed during an altercation outside the store where he was selling CDs. Video of his shooting was posted online and set off angry protests in this city of about 229,000, where 54% of the population is black and more than 25% live in poverty.

Protesters blocked the junction in front of the Triple S Food Mart, where the shooting took place, asking drivers to honk their horns. Candle-lit balloons were released into the hot night air nearby in honour of Mr Sterling and protesters waved signs and chanted slogans.

At a vigil on Thursday evening, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards thanked the people of Baton Rouge for their peaceful demonstrations and promised to focus on improving law enforcement.

"We are going to come out of this tragedy stronger and more united than ever," he said.

According to internal affairs documents, the two police officers involved in Mr Sterling's death had four previous "use of force" complaints lodged against them but were cleared in all of them.

The complaints included three black men and a black juvenile. One of the men was shot when police said he pointed a gun at them and the others were injured during arrests and a police pursuit in a vehicle.

The officers involved are Blane Salamoni, a four-year member of the department, and Howie Lake II, who has been on the force for three years. Each had two prior "use of force" complaints.

The documents were released a day after the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting of Mr Sterling. Police said he was armed and a witness said he had a gun in his pocket.

Mr Sterling was a convicted felon, which would have barred him from legally carrying a gun, according to court records.

He pleaded guilty in 2011 to being a felon in possession of a firearm and illegally carrying a weapon. A judge in Baton Rouge sentenced him to five years in prison.

Court records show he was also arrested in May 2009 after an officer confronted him outside a store where he was selling CDs. It was a different store to the one where he was killed.

An online appeal to raise college funds for Mr Sterling's five children passed 375,000 dollars (£290,000) in less than a day.

The campaign, posted on the website, raised contributions for the family from 13,000 donors in its first 23 hours.

The scholarship campaign was launched by actress-writer Issa Rae, who describes herself on the Gofundme page as "sympathetic and empathetic" to the plight of the family.


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