BATON ROUGE – At an afternoon press conference, Governor John Bel Edwards joined Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Broome in expressing disgust in how the Department of Justice handled its decision in the Alton Sterling case.
Sterling was shot during a confrontation with Baton Rouge Police Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake in July of this year, sparking a wave of protests and violent clashes in and around Baton Rouge.
Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson announced that the DOJ found “that insufficient evidence exists to charge either officer with a federal crime in connection with this incident” in a separate press conference held just before Edwards and Broome took to the podium.
“I have been in contact with the Sterling family to express my continued sympathy,” Broome said. “No decision by the Department of Justice can replace the loss of Mr. Sterling. You see, Mr. Sterling’s name is more than a hashtag or a Facebook post. He was a human being.”
Broome said she realized that many members of the community were hoping and praying that for DOJ to come to a different conclusion.
“This decision by the Justice Department to not file charges does not mean the police officers acted appropriately,” she said. “It means there was not sufficient evidence, according to what we heard from the Department of Justice, to charge the officers with violating the civil rights of Mr. Sterling.”
By the time the official decision had been announced this afternoon, it had already become headline news around the globe after someone leaked the information.
“I certainly don’t know anyone who was satisfied with the way that this decision rolled out yesterday, with the leak,” Broome said. “I made a statement yesterday in saying that I was appalled with what took place in terms of this information coming out through the press before the family even had an opportunity to hear it.”
Edwards said his office coordinated closely with Amundson’s office to make sure the DOJ’s decision would be rolled out in an appropriate way that would limit the chances of protests and riots flaring up again.
“Certainly, we didn’t know when it was going to come, we didn’t know what the decision was going to be, but from a public safety perspective, we worked together to try to figure out how we would want that to happen,” he said. “The leak prevented us from being able to take advantage of all of that time and energy that we put into that.”
Edwards said he hopes an investigation into the leak will determine how it occurred and punish the people responsible.
“It was disrespectful to the family, but it also made it harder to do what was always priority number one for us, and that is maintain public safety,” he said.