11:17, May 03 443 0 abajournal.com

2017-05-03 11:17:05
Justice Department won’t charge Baton Rouge officers in fatal shooting, reports say

The U.S. Justice Department won’t charge two white police officers in the fatal shooting of a black man last July in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sources say.

Unnamed sources told the Washington Post and the New York Times that the department won’t bring federal charges in the death of Alton Sterling, who was shot while pinned to the ground.

According to the Times, the decision comes as the Trump administration is “under scrutiny about how it will handle prosecutions in racially charged police shootings, a priority of the Obama administration.” Former President Barack Obama had announced the civil rights investigation last July.

Police had confronted Sterling while investigating a report of a man with a gun. Sterling was selling CDs outside a convenience store at the time.

A video of the shooting showed a police officer or officers apparently shooting Sterling, who was pinned to the ground, after someone shouted, “He’s got a gun. Gun!” A detective’s affidavit said officers had seen a butt of a gun in the pocket of Sterling’s pants.

It can be difficult to prove a federal civil rights violation because prosecutors have to present evidence that might speak to an officer’s intent, according to the Post. There were no federal charges against the police officer accused of killing Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. A Justice Department report said no evidence disproved the officer’s claim that he shot Brown because he feared for his safety when Brown charged him.