Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced today (July 6) that the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division’s will handle the investigation into Alton Sterling’s shooting death by a Baton Rouge police officer.
As we reported earlier today, a bystander’s cell phone video captured 37-year-old Sterling being slammed to the ground by two officers, having at least one of his hands restrained, and being shot as he lay on the ground. A parish coroner confirmed that Sterling, a Black father of five, died from multiple gunshot wounds.
The July 5 video’s circulation on social media prompted outrage over this latest instance of police violence against Black people from both local community members and national observers. Edwards called the video "disturbing, to say the least" in a press conference earlier today. He further clarified the DOJ’s intervention in a statement published to his office’s website after the conference:
Today, I have called for the U.S. Department of Justice to lead this investigation going forward. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the US Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, and the FBI have agreed to work this investigation along with the Louisiana State Police assisting when asked.
Edwards added that he will meet with faith-based community leaders today, acknowledging the ongoing protests and pleading for peace during the investigation.
The DOJ confirmed their and other federal agencies’ involvement in a statement sent to Louisiana media outlets:
— Elizabeth Crisp (@elizabethcrisp) July 6, 2016
The governor’s press conference closely preceded one featuring Baton Rouge police chief Carl Dabadie Jr., lieutenant Johnny Dunham and Mayor Melvin "Kip" Holden. According to CNN, Dunham confirmed the existence of body camera footage. "That footage may not be as good as we hoped for," said Dunham. "During the altercation, the body cameras did become dislodged, but they did stay on and active and recording at this time." Dabadie confirmed the investigation’s handling by federal authorities and said that he would not step down from his position despite demands from community members.
— Michael Vinsanau (@MVinsanau) July 6, 2016
Baton Rouge police also released a statement, tweeted by a local reporter above, naming officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II as the officers involved and placed on administrative leave. According to ABC News, both officers are White and have at least three years service to their names.
(H/t The Advocate)