A 37-year-old black man who was selling CDs in Baton Rouge was fatally shot by a police officer on Tuesday morning.
Police in the city, the second largest in the US state, remained tight-lipped after the incident between two police officers and Alton Sterling, the man who was fatally shot during the altercation. One witness described the police officers as aggressive and said that Sterling was armed, but did not reach for his pockets and was not holding a weapon during the incident, The Advocate reports.
Sterling was selling CDs in front of the Triple S Food Mart and was killed after being shot in the chest and the back multiple times, the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office told WAFB-TV.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. claims that both officers’ body cameras fell off during the incident, NewsWest9 reports. Abdul Muflahi, the owner of the food mart, told the station that he did not see a gun in Sterling's hand, but did see police pull one out of his pocket afterwards.
“They didn't have to shoot him,” Muflahi said. “They got a call saying that he had a gun. They could have handled it differently.”
One witness captured a 48-second mobile-phone video of the confrontation. Sterling is shown being shot twice and three shots can be heard afterwards.
“His hand was nowhere near his pocket,” Muflahi told The Advocate. “[The police officers] were really aggressive from the start.” He said he then heard one of the officers say, “just leave him.”
The state of Louisiana allows gun owners to open-carry without a permit – as long as they’re an adult and have not been convicted of felonies.
Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, called for the Justice Department to investigate the shooting.
“The video footage released today of the shooting of Alton Sterling by officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department was deeply troubling and has understandably evoked strong emotion and anger in our community,” Richmond said in a statement early this morning.
“I call on the US Department of Justice to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident. The cause of justice requires state and local law enforcement to join in this request as soon as possible.”
The state’s bill of rights also permits police officers the right to wait up to 30 days before being questioned by investigators.
Both police officers—who were later announced as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II—have been placed on paid administrative leave and police said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
UPDATE — July 6
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced on Wednesday that the Justice Department will lead the investigation into the shooting.