Monday 19 March 2018

Mourners file past coffin of Louisiana police shooting victim

Mourners file past the coffin of Alton Sterling (AP)
Mourners file past the coffin of Alton Sterling (AP)
Cameron Sterling, son of Alton Sterling, who was killed by Baton Rouge police last Tuesday (AP)

Mourners have been filing past the coffin of a 37-year-old black man who was shot dead by Louisiana police who pinned him to the pavement outside a convenience store.

Friends and family paused in front of Alton Sterling's open coffin, which was adorned with musical notes and a smiling photo of the dead man.

Mr Sterling was selling CDs outside the store, as he had done for years, when he was killed by police responding to a call of a man threatening someone with a gun.

One mourner wore a T-shirt that said "No Justice, No Peace" on the back of it. Another carried a board saying: "Black America I'm Sorry!!".

Mr Sterling's death was captured on smartphone video and circulated widely on the internet. His death, along with another fatal police shooting in Minnesota, sparked widespread outrage among many African-Americans over the treatment of blacks by police.

Claire Carter was among those who came to grieve for Mr Sterling inside the basketball arena at Southern University, a historically black college in north Baton Rouge. She said she wanted aggressive policing to end.

His encounter with police "went too far" when officers tackled him and used a stun gun on him, she said. Police have said they found a gun in his pocket.

Ms Carter said she bought a rhythm and blues CD from Mr Sterling about a year ago and took it out and played it again after his death.

Funeral services are scheduled for later on Friday.

Mr Sterling's death heightened tensions in Baton Rouge. About 200 protesters were arrested over the weekend and police said they had foiled an alleged plot to attack officers.

Authorities said they discovered the plot after several men broke into a pawn shop and stole guns. One of the suspects said they did so to harm officers while another said he did it to sell the guns.

Malik Bridgewater, 20, is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court on Friday. Police arrested Bridgewater and two other suspects on theft and burglary charges after eight handguns were stolen.

Bridgewater told investigators his motivation was to sell stolen items for cash, an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote in an affidavit filed in federal court.

State and local law enforcement officials said during a news conference on Tuesday that the stolen guns were part of a credible threat to harm police officers.

The first suspect arrested over the burglary, Antonio Thomas, 17, told police that "the reason the burglary was being done was to harm police officers".

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said threats like that justified an increased show of force at the demonstrations, as officers donned riot gear and used military-style vehicles after starting with a mostly low profile.

Police arrested a third suspect, a 13-year-old boy, on Monday while a fourth suspect remained at large.


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