BATON ROUGE — The family of Alton Sterling is calling for state Attorney General Jeff Landry to step in and take action against the officers who shot and killed him after the U.S. Justice Department announced today it will not seek federal charges.
A spokesman for the family said in a press conference that the U.S. Justice Department declined charges only because investigators could not disprove Officer Blane Salamoni’s claim that Sterling’s right hand was reaching for a gun.
The family spokesman also said that Salamoni walked up to Sterling when he first arrived on scene, put a gun to his head and told Sterling, “I’m going to shoot you in your f***ing head.”
“How can you believe the mindset of someone who walks up to someone and sticks a gun to his head?” the spokesman said.
Howie Lake is the other officer involved in Sterling’s fatal shooting.
Sterling was shot and killed outside a Baton Rouge convenience store just after midnight July 5. Police said they were called to the store in response to a man threatening someone with a gun. Sterling was known as the “CD man” and sold CDs outside of the same convenience store for years.
Police said Sterling resisted arrest and didn’t respond when officers used a Taser on him, but video that surfaced after the shooting shows Sterling was pinned down by the officers. Sterling was shot six times in the chest and back.
“It’s not over,” the spokesman said. “DOJ can step aside. Attorney General Jeff Landry can do something, and will do something, I believe, and hold them accountable. The actions of the officers that night were absolutely heinous.”
Landry released a statement after the DOJ announcement and said there hasn’t been a state criminal investigation yet because his office has not received the investigative findings from the Justice Department.
“At this time, and due to the nature of their investigation, my office has not been privy to any investigative materials created and collected by the USDOJ,” he said. “Therefore, I cannot and will not comment on their findings beyond that they were made after an exhaustive investigation and a thorough review of the evidence.”
Landry said he has requested the DOJ case file and assigned a prosecutor to the case.
The Washington Post and The New York Times reported the news of no charges Tuesday, a day ahead of the DOJ announcement. Sterling’s aunt, Sandra, said hearing the news on media reports first before meeting with investigators was hard.
“It’s a horrible pain,” she said. “It’s like going back to the first day.”
The family asked that the community keep Alton Sterling’s name alive. Asked about protests, Sandra Sterling said “be respectful.”
“They don’t care about us marching for a second,” the family spokesman said. “They care about us holding them accountable.”