Alton Sterling shooting death at hands of Baton Rouge Louisiana police. Was one local black man justified in being shot dead by police? Debate erupts, new video surfaces.
The shooting death of Alton Sterling a Baton Rouge, Louisiana man with a history of prior convictions has drawn the ire of the public (thank the news media) after he was recorded on a cell phone video (seeing is believing) being shot dead by local police. For selling CD’s. At least that is the headline that seems to work for now.
In an instance of Baton Rouge police having to make a tough call as to whether their lives were in danger after a confrontation with Alton Sterling escalated, much has been made about the notion that Sterling’s death came because of his color and the police’s unwavering flagrant disregard for the lives of those of color.
Read in part the complaint: ‘Uniformed officers responded to a disturbance call from a complainant who stated that a black male who was selling music cd’s and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun.’
Baton Rouge police were called to a convenience store on a man with a gun call. Upon arriving at the store, Tuesday morning circa 12.35 am, the police officers, Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake on the basis of Sterling matching the description of the individual in question began having a conversation with said person.
What was said is yet to be necessarily understood.
While this was all going on an individual nearby in a car proceeded to record the exchange as officers stepped back and fired a taser at Alton Sterling.
Again what prompted cops to fire a taser at Sterling? Presumably it had more to do with him just selling a CD by the sidewalk even if that may have initiated the police call. This in and of itself raises the important question, did police have probable cause to issue an arrest? Even if Sterling felt the police visit merited it or not.
From there the taser fires for a second time, as Sterling remains unmoved and ‘passively non-compliant.’
Of question, did police at any point prior to tasering feel threatened? Or was the act of tasering an over reaction to Sterling failing to comply? Were there other methods in which police could have used beyond tasering?
From there video shows one of the officers tackling Sterling after refusing to heed demands to get on the ground. Which raises the question why didn’t Alton Sterling do as he was asked?
What happens next is a tenuous understanding of moments before gunshots are head. After Sterling has been tackled one and in the process of being secured one of the officers is heard screaming, ‘he’s got a gun!’
At this point, Sterling is observed actively still resisting. Hardly the most diplomatic way to deal with police. Unless of course Alton Sterling had no intention of ever being diplomatic?
From there the cop who had twice tasered Sterling draws his handgun to retention while issuing a warning, ‘Hey bra! You fxcking move, I swear to God.’
And bang, two shots are heard, not seen being fired as the video loses focus and goes back inside the car while several other shots are also heard.
Were all the gunshots legally justified, did the officers feel threatened, did Sterling’s actions suggest he may have sought to pull a gun on the officers? Was Alton Sterling at the very moment when the video cut out on his gun? Or was this an instance of cops over reacting but if so why did it take police having to taser Sterling twice and the need to tackle him to get the man to comply?
Of note, a report via the advocate quoted shop owner Abdullah Muflahi saying that the officers were ‘aggressive’ from the start, and that Sterling was armed but was not holding his gun and didn’t have his hand near his pocket at the time of the shooting.
The new video, provided by Muflahi and obtained by the dailybeast does not appear to support the claim that Sterling’s supposed gun represented an active threat to the officers. Instead, it shows Sterling being repeatedly shot after he was pinned on the ground. See below:
Having said that, Having said that new video from the guardian also shows officers recovering a handgun from Sterling after he was shot, albeit from his pocket. Indicating that the man at the time did not have the gun in his hand pointed at officers. That said questions remain whether Sterling may have sought to go for the gun or whether there was enough commotion or confusion to warrant officers believing that to be the case?
Since the shooting, both officers have been put on administrative leave, per Baton Rouge Police Department policy, with an investigation, led by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, underway.
Of note, both officers were reportedly wearing body cameras, and the police car had a dashboard camera as well. Interestingly, at a Wednesday press meeting, police declined to confirm or deny a weapon was recovered from Sterling.
Also worth noting, is the fact that Alton Sterling had a criminal record.
Notes vox: He was a sex offender, convicted of one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile in 2000. He also was accused of several crimes in the 1990s, including aggravated battery, simple criminal damage to property, unauthorized entry, domestic abuse battery, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, and illegally carrying a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.
— Fusion (@Fusion) July 6, 2016
But here’s the catch, at the time of the incident, it’s unlikely police knew about his record. One can only reasonably assume they were reacting to events as they unfolded in front of them. Events which they may have interpreted with bias and prejudice as many black people will argue is their daily lot.
Events which may have necessitated them taking aggressive stances given Sterling’s reluctance to comply. Even if we disagree with such aggressive reactions. Would such actions be mandated towards white persons? Are we to believe white people are less aggressive?
Ultimately what matters are the impending facts. Was Alton Sterling holding and trying to use a gun at the time he was shot. The legal standard for use of force requires officers to reasonably perceive a threat at the moment of use of force.
— Brian ♓️☔️☂ (@SuperboyJohnson) July 6, 2016
Since Sterling was seemingly immobile in the video of the shooting, critics argue that he was not in fact a threat and the shooting is another example of excessive use of force against a black man. An argument which has been raging on social media all day.
That said, one has to ask the awkward question, motivated or not, in mortal danger or not, why is it in America, black people are more often killed by police than white people?
FBI data shows that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: They accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. Although the data is incomplete, since it’s based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, it highlights the vast disparities in how police use force.
Black teens were 21 times as likely as white teens to be shot and killed by police between 2010 and 2012, according to a ProPublica analysis of the FBI data.
Notes the outlet: ‘One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica’s analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring — 185, more than one per week.’
Which goes back to the awkward question, was Alton Sterling’s shooting death racially motivated or instigated by police or the result that more often when it comes to hard crime, such criminal acts are committed by minorities and those of a lower echelon while those of a higher income bracket concentrate on white collar crimes which are rarely ever caught on video and rarely indicted, let alone leading to protagonists being shot to death.
I’ll leave you with this awkward fact that most news agencies will be reluctant to openly reveal, make what of it as you will:
Black people in the United States are more likely to be victims of violent confrontations with police officers than whites because they commit more violent crimes than whites per capita.