A 37-year-old Baton Rouge, Louisiana, man named Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police early Tuesday morning in an incident captured on cellphone video footage that has been widely circulated online. In the video, Sterling is tackled and pinned to the ground by two officers, one of whom shouts “He’s got a gun! Gun!” before both officers appear to draw weapons and several shots are heard as the individual recording the scene turns away. Here’s the video; be forewarned that it is disturbing.
The confrontation took place near a convenience store outside which Sterling was apparently selling CDs. The Baton Rouge Advocate spoke to the owner/manager of the store, Abdullah Muflahi:
Muflahi, who said he was two feet away from the altercation, said an officer yelled “gun” during the scuffle. An officer then fired four to six shots into Sterling’s chest, he said.
“His hand was nowhere (near) his pocket,” Muflahi said, adding that Sterling wasn’t holding a weapon. After the shooting, an officer reached into Sterling’s pocket and retrieved a handgun, Muflahi said.
Muflahi also told the Advocate that he knew Sterling and that Sterling had begun carrying a gun recently after a friend was mugged. (Louisiana does not require gun owners to obtain a permit before buying a weapon and/or carrying one openly; it does require a permit to carry a concealed weapon.) A police spokesman said that officers responded to the store after “an anonymous caller indicated that a man in a red shirt who was selling CDs outside the store pointed a gun at someone.” It’s not clear what escalated the confrontation once they arrived.
The Advocate reports that court records indicate Sterling has been convicted of a number of crimes including “carnal knowledge of a minor,” aggravated battery, and domestic abuse battery.
Sterling’s death triggered a large protest in Baton Rouge; Rep. Cedric Richmond, who represents the city, has called for a federal investigation into the incident. Baton Rouge’s police chief is expected to address reporters at some point Wednesday.