Tuesday morning’s fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officer will be investigated by the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Edwards said he had watched the widely circulated video footage of Sterling’s death and found it “disturbing, to say the least,” adding that his conversations with law enforcement officials about the incident had left him with “very serious concerns.” Edwards said he would demand the DOJ’s investigation—which will also include the office of U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Walt Green and the FBI—be carried out “impartially, professionally, and thoroughly.”
Sterling, who was 37, was killed outside a convenience store shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning after a confrontation with two Baton Rouge police officers, neither of whom has been identified, amid circumstances that have yet to be explained or described by the police department. (Update, 12:14 p.m.: According to Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Maya Lau, the officers have been identified as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II. They have been on the police force for four and three years, respectively.)
In the video, it appears that the police officers were pinning Sterling to the ground when they drew their weapons and one of them fired. Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
Police arrived at the scene after a 911 caller reported that a man selling CDs had pointed a gun at someone. In the video, which was shot by a bystander, the officers can be heard saying “He’s got a gun!” According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the owner of the convenience store, Abdullah Muflahi, witnessed the altercation and said that Sterling was not holding his gun or touching his pockets.
Baton Rouge Police Department spokesman Capt. L’Jean McKneely said that both officers were wearing body cameras but that they came loose during the incident.