I am once again stunned by the inefficiency and negligence of the Department of Justice in wake of today’s news that they will not be pursuing federal charges against Baton Rouge police officers Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni, who shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling last July.

I was hoping that of all cases, this one would result in some element of justice, however, it appears like that the trend continues. It is clear, from video of the incident, that this man should not have been shot and should still be alive today. People are so quick to shout about the right to keep and bear arms, yet this man, who had purchased a gun for his protection, was executed on site for having a weapon, so where is the right’s defense of Mr. Alton Sterling? Where are the gun activists? Where are the throngs of angry conservatives shouting about the second amendment? This man’s right to bear arms; his life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; his right to a jury and speedy trial -those were taken from him and yet they are silent. We all know why; we know about the apathy towards black Americans and other minorities being shot and killed by police, we know they are automatically assumed to have done something wrong and convicted in the courts of the media and white public opinion. There are those who deny the significance of race in Alton Sterling’s death, but as someone who works in public safety along side police officers, as someone who has been detained at gunpoint before, I can clearly see the racial impact, not only in the shooting itself, but also in the public reaction, the investigation, and now, the results. This is not only about one man’s death, it is about how common place this is. This is not anti-police, actually it is the opposite, it is about holding officers and departments accountable to assure the credibility of police.

This is a sad day for America, another name has been added to the list of injustice, with more names sure to come. When does it end? When will we be able to reassure our black children, youth, and even the 37-year-old man selling CDs at the convenience store or cigarettes on the street, that they can trust law enforcement and feel safe when approached? That they will be given the respect they deserve and that they will be innocent until proven guilty?

Now, we await the State of Louisiana’s decision as to whether or not they will pursue charges - I hope they do, and I hope some element of justice is served.  

My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Alton Sterling who have had to see this play out over the last 10 months, with much more to come. I wish peace for the community and safety for those within. And for the rest of us, the observers across the country, and across the world, inform yourself, speak up and speak out, we cannot allow this to quietly go away. 

Justice Department will not charge the Louisiana officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling

(Screenshot from a bystander video that captured the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling.Screenshot via The Advocate)
The Justice Department will not pursue charges against the two Louisiana police officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling last year, according to multiple reports.

The department was mulling whether to charge two officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, with violating Sterling’s civil rights. The decision will likely be announced on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post, citing four unidentified sources familiar with the matter.

Sterling, 37, was killed during a confrontation with Baton Rouge police in July. According to police statements, Sterling fit the description of a man who was reportedly threatening someone with a gun. Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store when police arrived on the scene.

Video of the incident shows police pinning Sterling to the ground. One of the officers can be heard saying “He’s got a gun,” and shots are fired off camera. The officers maintained that Sterling was reaching for a gun in his front pants pocket. It is unclear from the footage whether Sterling threatened the officers.

The incident occurred one day before police in Minnesota fatally shot Philando Castile. The two deaths of black men at the hands of police sparked nationwide protests and reignited the debate on the use of deadly force in law enforcement.

Authorities in Baton Rouge are preparing for the possibility of protests in reaction to the Justice Department’s decision, according to The Post.

The investigation into Sterling’s death was launched in July by federal attorney Walt Green, an appointee of former President Barack Obama. This week’s decision marks the first high-profile case under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department declines to bring charges against law enforcement officers, according to The Post and The New York Times.

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The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation on Wednesday into the fatal shooting of a black man by the Baton Rouge, La., police after a searing video of the encounter, aired repeatedly on television and social media, reignited contentious issues surrounding police killings of African-Americans.

Officials from Gov. John Bel Edwards to the local police and elected officials vowed a complete and transparent investigation and appealed to the city — after a numbing series of high-profile, racially charged incidents elsewhere — to remain calm.

“I have full confidence that this matter will be investigated thoroughly, impartially and professionally,” Mr. Edwards said in announcing the federal takeover of the case. “I have very serious concerns. The video is disturbing, to say the least.”

Urging patience while the investigation takes place, the governor said: “I know that that may be tough for some, but it’s essential that we do that. I know that there are protests going on, but it’s urgent that they remain peaceful.”

Two white officers were arresting Alton B. Sterling, 37, early Tuesday after responding to a call about an armed man. The officers had Mr. Sterling pinned to the ground when at least one of them shot him.

The video of the shooting propelled the case to national attention, like a string of recorded police shootings before it. The shooting has prompted protests here in the Louisiana capital, including a vigil with prayers and gospel music that drew hundreds of people Wednesday night to the storefront where it happened.

C. Denise Marcelle, a state representative who recently announced that she would run for mayor, made impassioned pleas that the crowd remain calm.

LaMont O. Cole, a city councilman, had some of the harshest words for the two police officers. “Those two officers who perpetrated this brutal attack, and then murdered this young man, are cowards,” he said.

The decision to have the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office in Baton Rouge conduct the investigation was welcomed by a lawyer for Mr. Sterling’s family.

“We’re confident that it won’t be swept under the rug,” said the lawyer, Edmond Jordan, who is also a state representative. “I think people are confident that justice will be pursued.”

Officials identified the officers as Blane Salamoni, who has been with the force for four years, and Howie Lake II, with three years’ experience. Both were placed on administrative leave.