It’s impossible to watch without feeling sick, without a sense of dread, and sadness. Graphic cell phone video shot from inside a parked car shows 37-year old Alton Sterling being shoved to the ground, his face mashed into the pavement by two police officers who then shoot him dead outside a Louisiana convenience store on Tuesday.
Police say Sterling was selling CDs and DVDs out front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge when he became involved in a conflict with police. The reasons are unknown. Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. told reporters police officers Blane Salamoni – a four-year veteran, and Howie Lake II – a three-year veteran – are on administrative leave while an investigation into the incident is underway.
The Baton Rouge coroner determined the cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds to Sterling’s chest and back, and investigators are working to piece together what sparked the confrontation. In the cell phone video, a woman can be heard screaming as shots are fired and Sterling hits the ground. Footage of the shooting went viral hours after the shooting, sending #AltonSterling trending on Twitter.
A press release issued Tuesday by the Baton Rouge Police Department stated an investigation was underway relating to the officer-involved shooting on North Foster Drive around 12:35 a.m. Uniformed officers responded to a disturbance call from a complainant who stated a black man who was selling music CDs and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun. Officers then made contact with Sterling in the parking lot of the business and an altercation ensued.
A gun was reportedly recovered from Sterling’s body after he was killed. Louisiana is an open-carry state. Calls placed to the Triple S Food Mart Wednesday afternoon and evening went unanswered, as well as to the Big Ben Furniture Store directly across the street.
Quinyetta McMillan, Sterling’s wife, held a press conference Wednesday outside Baton Rougue City Hall.
“The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis,” said a tearful McMillan.
“My son is not the youngest. He is the oldest of his siblings. He had to watch this as this was put all over the [media] outlets…You will see with your own eyes how he was handled unjustly and killed without regard for the lives he helped raise.”
Her son, 15-year old Cameron Sterling, sobbed uncontrollably at her side while she read from a prepared statement.