10:48, March 28 131 0 abajournal.com

2018-03-28 10:48:06
Why Louisiana’s attorney general declined to prosecute police in fatal shooting of Alton Sterling

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Tuesday that he was declining to prosecute two Baton Rouge police officers in the July 2016 shooting death of a black man selling CDs outside a convenience store, citing an inability to control the armed man “with several nonlethal techniques.”

Landry’s decision follows the U.S. Justice Department’s decision last May against bringing federal charges. The Associated Press, the Advocate, the Washington Post and the New York Times have stories.

Landry referred to evidence reviewed by the state. The two officers had been told Alton Sterling had a gun, and the officers couldn’t control Sterling after he didn’t comply with commands. One officer, Blane Salamoni, issued a command: “Don’t f—— move or I’ll shoot you in your f—— head.”

That temporarily worked but the officers weren’t able to take Sterling into custody. A Taser was used twice, with little effect. Salamoni was able to wrestle Sterling onto the ground. Salamoni drew his gun, saying “If you move, I swear to God.” Later, Salamoni exclaimed, “He’s got a gun!” and “He’s going for the gun!”

Salamoni then fired three times, and when Sterling tried to get up, Salamoni fired three more times. Sterling had a gun in his pocket.

Landry also said Sterling had an “extensive history” with police. An autopsy found the 37-year-old Sterling had drugs in his system, including methamphetamine. The state report is here.

Lawyer L. Chris Stewart, who represents the Sterling family, criticized the attorney general’s decision to include Sterling’s criminal history and toxicology results in the state report. Those factors didn’t have anything to do with the fatal shooting, he told the Advocate

Former federal prosecutor Prem Burns told the Advocate that it’s common for prosecutors to bring police shooting cases before a grand jury. The extra layer of review could have brought credibility and transparency to Landry’s decision, he said.

“You a want a fair cross section of the community to make a decision in a case like this,” he said. “This is too controversial of a case and too close a call.”

Bowling Green State University professor Philip Stinson told the New York Times that, since 2005, he had found 85 cases in which nonfederal police officers were charged with murder or manslaughter related to a shooting while on duty. Thirty-two of them have been convicted of a crime, he said.

Salamoni and the other officer involved in the arrest still face administrative hearings. A suit by Sterling’s family is pending.