Saturday, 18 November, 2017

3 shootings by police put spotlight on Justice Department

Everett Matthews of Baton Rouge La. holds up a sign outside the Triple S Food Mart where Alton Sterling was killed last year in Baton Rouge La. Tuesday Why Justice Department decided not to press charges against officers in Alton Sterling shooting death
Craig Ferguson | 05 May, 2017, 00:26

Two white Louisiana police officers will not face federal charges for the fatal shooting of a black man that sparked nationwide protests previous year, USA officials said on Wednesday, though the state is opening its own criminal investigation.

"We would have to prove he (Sterling) wasn't actually going for a gun, and that Salamoni just wanted to shoot him", said Corey Amundson, acting USA attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.

On Tuesday evening, dozens of people gathered outside the Baton Rouge convenience store where Sterling was shot and killed during a struggle with the two officers on July 5, 2016.

Amundson said that the investigators are not from Baton Rouge and had no stakes in the case, saying that, "being reckless" was not the basis under the law for a civil rights prosecution.

The officers recovered a loaded revolver from Sterling's pocket. Each officer had two prior "use of force" complaints against them, and records indicate they were cleared in all cases.

The Washington Post and The New York Times first reported Tuesday that multiple sources told them the US Justice Department, which led the investigation into the shooting, will close its investigation and not seek charges against the officers. "With respect to the second series of shots, both experts emphasized that officers are trained to eliminate a threat, and that Sterling appeared to pose a threat because he was still moving and his right hand was not visible to Officer Salamoni".

Members of Sterling's family were grief-stricken at the news. She went on to say that Sterling "was not bothering anyone".

"We'll continue to be the voice for the people because a right has been violated", local NAACP president Ambrose Douzart said.

Separately, a white officer in South Carolina, Michael Slager, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for shooting dead a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back two years ago.

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Cellphone video showed Sterling was pinned to the ground before he was shot, but police said he was reaching for a gun. One new detail: The officer who eventually shot Sterling first put a gun to his head when Sterling didn't comply with orders to put his hands on the hood of a vehicle on the night of July 5. In their statements, Segar and Alexander say they "respect and support" the students' rights to express their opinions.

When there is a decision, the family will be notified first, and then the department will hold a news conference, she said.

All federal prosecutors and agents involved in the investigation have concluded there's not enough evidence to charge either Blane Salamoni or Howie Lake II, said Corey Amundson, acting USA attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.

The officers still face a state criminal investigation over last summer's shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, the state capital.

The Justice Department has not confirmed the Louisiana media reports about a decision to not prosecute.

It's unclear whether the Justice Department will investigate the shooting of the 15-year-old on Saturday.

Sterling's family said the father of five was minding his own business and did not deserve to die. But family attorney Chris Stewart said he thinks the state will find reason to charge the officers. Broome began by stating that despite the Department of Justice's decision, that "does not mean that the police officers acted appropriately". "The evidence also can not establish that Sterling was not reaching for a gun when Officer Salamoni yelled that Sterling was doing so". The convenience store owner said officers twice deployed the devices before the shooting. Castile, who was 32 and black, was pulled over by an officer outside St. Paul and shot after informing the officer he had a weapon, which he was licensed to carry, in the vehicle.

Although the investigation is over on a federal level it is being turned over to Louisiana State Police.

McLindon says he can't discuss the evidence in the case due to a pending state investigation. Between 2005 and 2015, there were only 13 police officers convicted of murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings.

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