Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II were the two officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting of Alton Sterling, the city’s police chief said Wednesday.
Salamoni is a four-year veteran of the department. Lake is a three-year veteran of the force.
Both officers, who work in the uniform patrol division, were placed on administrative leave Tuesday morning, police said.
The U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division will be the lead agency investigating the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters Wednesday.
The U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI and state police also will be involved, he said. Edwards said he has “very serious concerns” after having watched a cell phone video of the shooting.
“The video is disturbing to say the least,” he said. He said officials agreed there should be an independent investigation. “There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that this incident is going to be investigated impartially and thoroughly,” the governor said.
Edwards said he expressed his condolences Wednesday to Sterling’s family, speaking on the phone with his aunt.
[Original story, published at 11:02 a.m. ET]
The graphic video shows a deadly encounter outside a convenience store.
Two police officers pin down Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, then shoot him as he lies on the ground.
The video, shared widely on social media, quickly sparked local protests and drew national attention.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police say they came to the scene early Tuesday after an anonymous 911 caller reported a man threatening him with a gun.
Accounts of what happened next depend on whom you ask. Sterling is dead. Authorities are investigating. And the president of the NAACP’s local branch is calling for the city’s police chief and mayor to resign.
The U.S. attorney’s office in conjunction with the Louisiana State Police will lead the investigation into the shooting, Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said.
Edmond Jordan, an attorney representing Sterling’s family, said the video of the shooting raises troubling questions.
“I think that the city is going to have to give us some good answers,” Jordan, who is also a Louisiana state legislator, told CNN. “And I don’t know if they’ll be able to. “Sterling’s family, he said, has seen the video of the shooting.
The 48-second video appears to be cell phone footage recorded by a witness inside a nearby car. It begins with the camera facing a car dashboard. A single pop is heard. Then someone yells, “Get on the ground.” Another pop follows.
A video showing a deadly encounter outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has sparked national outrage. Police officers pin down Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, then shoot him as he lies on the ground.
Are there other videos?
Baton Rouge police told CNN that detectives will review the cell phone video. The police chief and mayor are scheduled to speak about the case at a press conference at noon ET Wednesday.
Police officials say the video was not sent to the department but was released to the media and posted online.
Police have said the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, a standard practice following an officer-involved shooting. The owner of the convenience store where Sterling was killed said he’s sure the shooting was caught on his store’s surveillance cameras, though he hasn’t seen it. Police took the video later Tuesday, he told CNN.
What about body cameras?
State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, who said the police chief briefed her, told CNN affiliate WAFB-TVthat the officers were wearing body cameras, but the cameras fell off during the struggle and did not capture the shooting.
Jordan, the family attorney, also told CNN he’s heard the officers’ body cameras fell off in the struggle.
The ‘CD man’
“Alton was a respected man. He was beloved in the community. He did not deserve the treatment and this excessive force that was exerted on him by the police department,” Jordan, his attorney, told CNN.
Now Sterling’s family is “grieving and mourning for an unnecessary loss of life,” the attorney said.
“Alton was out there selling CDs, trying to make a living. He was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct,” Jordan said.
Muflahi let him sell CDs in front of the store. He said Sterling never got into fights.
Muflahi said he saw the officers slam Sterling on a car. “They told him not to move,” he said. “He was asking them what he did wrong.”
He said the officers then used a stun gun on Sterling at least once before shooting.
Both got on top of him, and one ordered him not to move. The one closest to Sterling’s legs yelled “gun,” and the shots followed.
After the shooting, Muflahi said an officer reached into Sterling’s pocket and pulled out a gun.
When it was over, Muflahi said he heard the officers talking on the scene, saying they had been called there due to a complaint that Sterling had pulled a gun on someone.
But Muflahi said he never saw a confrontation between Sterling and anyone. And he wasn’t aware of any incident about which someone would have called.
“Just five minutes before,” Muflahi said, “he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, (and we were) calling each other names.”
‘He was handled unjustly’
At a press conference Wednesday, the president of the NAACP’s branch in Baton Rouge called for the city’s police chief and mayor to resign in the wake of the shooting.
“We’re actually here today to speak to the culture of the Baton Rouge Police Department. This incident is only one incident in many,” Michael McClanahan told reporters. “What we’re going to do is root out the 1% of bad police officers that go around being the judge, the jury and executioner of innocent people, period, but more specifically, innocent black lives.”
The officers involved should be held accountable, McClanahan said.
‘We ain’t running from this’
“Pretty much everybody who knows him knows he’s a sweet person,” his sister, Mignon Chambers, told CNN affiliate WVLA-TV.
“It wasn’t right, and something needs to be done.”The protests were largely peaceful, according to local media.
Some streets were shut down, a few individuals spoke and those on the scene mostly played music and chanted.
“We ain’t running from this,” one man could be heard telling the crowd. “We gonna pray first, but we gonna stand tonight. We gonna stand tomorrow. And we gonna stand as a community.”
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond said in a statement that he will call on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.
“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.
“I ask the leaders and citizens of Baton Rouge to join me in demonstrating our anger with dignity and demanding proper focus on our cause with perseverance. His family and the citizens of Baton Rouge — especially the citizens of North Baton Rouge — deserve answers and that is what we will seek in a fair, thorough, and transparent way.”