Protesters take to streets after police kill Louisiana man
Published 06/07/2016 | 13:41
The police chief in the Louisiana town of Baton Rouge has faced a call for his sacking after an officer shot and killed a black man during a confrontation outside a store.
The call came from Michael McClanahan, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), following the shooting in a confrontation outside a convenience store.
"What I'm calling for today is that the chief law enforcement officer to fire the police chief," said Mr McClanahan.
"He must step down. We cannot have anybody who allows this type of action to take place."
A video that purported to show the killing of Alton Sterling further fuelled public anger about the shooting on Tuesday, prompting hundreds to protest. The protest lasted into the night, with people chanting and holding up signs.
The video has not been authenticated but the appearance of the store in the video matches the front of the store where the shooting occurred. The man being subdued by police was wearing a red shirt, matching the description given earlier by police.
In the video, which appears to be shot from inside a nearby parked car, one of two officers outside the store can be seen tackling the man in the red shirt and wrestling him to the ground. The other officer helps him hold the man down.
At one point someone can be heard saying, "He's got a gun! Gun!" and then one officer on top of the man can be seen pulling his weapon from his holster.
After some shouting, what sounds like a gunshot can be heard and the camera pulls away. Then another four shots can be heard. At one point, a person in the vehicle asks "They shot him?" as a woman can be heard crying.
The Advocate reported the crowd that gathered late on Tuesday afternoon at the store where Mr Sterling died grew to more than 200 people. They chanted "black lives matter" and "hands up don't shoot" and waved signs late into the night, according to the newspaper.
By dawn on Wednesday, protesters and friends had created a makeshift memorial to Mr Sterling on the white folding tables and fold-out chair he had used to sell home-made music compilations on CDs.
Arthur Baines, who came by to pay his respects, said Mr Sterling had stayed with his sister at some point.
"He never bothered nobody. He was just trying to make an honest dollar," Mr Baines said.
He added he thought Mr Sterling was out late on July 4 because more people were out on the holiday, saying: "That's really how he made all of his money."
Mufleh Alatiyat, a 25-year old employee of the store, described Mr Sterling as generous and said he often gave away CDs or petty cash or bought food or drink for some people.
"He was a very nice guy," he said. "He helped a lot of people."
An autopsy shows Mr Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back, East Baton Rouge parish coroner Dr William Clark said.
Officers responded at about 12.35am on Tuesday after an anonymous caller indicated a man selling music CDs and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun, said Cpl L'Jean McKneely.
Two officers responded and had some type of altercation with the man and one officer fatally shot the suspect, said Cpl McKneely. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard department policy, he said.
The store's owner, Abdul Muflahi, said the first officer used a stun gun on Mr Sterling and the second officer tackled the man.
Mr Muflahi said that as Mr Sterling fought to get the officer off him, the first officer shot him "four to six times."
The owner said Sterling did not have a gun in his hand at the time but he saw officers remove a gun from Sterling's pocket after the shooting.
Cpl McKneely said he could not confirm Mr Muflahi's description of the event or any other details of the investigation.
Kimberly Lang said she purchased CDs from Mr Sterling occasionally and said he did not have a reputation for violence, according to a report by NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.
If Mr Sterling did have a gun on him, Ms Lang said, it was probably because he feared being robbed while peddling his CDs late at night, not because he wanted to threaten anyone.
The Justice Department says it will open a civil rights investigation into the videotaped police shooting.
Agency spokesman David Jacobs said the FBI's New Orleans Division and the US attorney's office will participate in the investigation of the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Mr Sterling.
Police say they went to the store on Tuesday after an anonymous caller said Sterling had threatened someone with a gun.
The Justice Department's investigation will look into whether the officers wilfully violated Mr Sterling's civil rights through the use of unreasonable or excessive force.
Federal investigators must meet a high legal burden to bring a civil rights prosecution, establishing that an officer knowingly used unreasonable force under the circumstances and did not simply make a mistake or use poor judgment.
Many federal probes conclude without criminal charges.
Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards says the cellphone video of the fatal police shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge is "disturbing to say the least."
Mr Edwards said the US Justice Department would investigate the shooting.
The governor said he understood that protesters were angry over the shooting and called for calm.
Authorities have not released the race of the two officers.
The Baton Rouge police chief said the man fatally shot by police was armed but there are still questions about what happened.
Chief Carl Dabadie Jr called the shooting a tragedy during a news conference and said: "Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand. And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers."
The police chief made his comments just an hour after the US Justice Department said it had opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting death. The chief says the probe will be transparent and independent.