That’s the number of bullets that may have been pumped into Alton Sterling by two Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers who shot Sterling to death while he was pinned to the ground.
Sterling, 37, should not have died.
He was selling CD’s in a store parking lot and police said they were told Sterling had a gun. A video of the shooting doesn’t show Sterling with a gun, but it clearly shows the officers taking Sterling hard to the pavement, with one cop pulling out his weapon and firing at Sterling at point-blank range.
But get this: One of the cops had already used a stun gun on Sterling before using deadly force. Sterling’s hands were restrained by the police officers so Sterling may not have been able to reach a gun even if he had one. Regardless, Louisiana is an open carry state.
Police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II — both white — have been placed on administrative leave. Sterling is Black.
I’m left to wonder how many Black men have to be shot and killed by police before America’s collective law enforcement system makes a serious, comprehensive assessment of the white-cop-quick-on-the-trigger culture that has permeated this republic?
This is no longer an isolated problem — it’s a national crisis which calls for an orchestrated sense of urgency to confront it.
At least Sterling’s death is being investigated by the federal government, with the U.S. Justice Department taking the lead.
The FBI released the following statement:
“The FBI’s New Orleans Division, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana have opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Alton Sterling. The Justice Department will collect all available facts and evidence and conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation. As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time.”
An autopsy showed Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to his back and chest. Law enforcement officials said both officers were strapped with body cameras, but they fell off during the struggle so there is no video footage of the shooting.
It’s curious that both body cameras the officers were wearing conveniently dropped off their bodies while they were fighting with Sterling. Fortunately, someone had the foresight to record the shooting so the public could see what actually happened.
Abdul Muflahi, who owns the convenience store where Sterling was selling CD’s outside, told WAFB-TV that one of the officers used a stun gun on Sterling and the second officer tackled him.
Muflahi said as Sterling fought with the officers, one of the cops shot him “four to six times.” Muflahi said Sterling did not have a gun in his hand when he was shot, but he witnessed the officers removing a gun from Sterling’s pocket after the shooting.
“Get on the ground, get on the ground!” one officer shouts in the cell phone video.
“He’s got a gun! Gun,” one officer says. Then he shot Sterling in the chest.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called the shooting “disturbing,” and said Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department will lead the investigation with the help of the FBI and state police.
“I have very serious concerns,” Edwards said. “The video is disturbing to say the least.”
Disturbing is an understatement. Could it be a cold-blooded murder?
Quinyetta McMillon, mother of the oldest of Sterling’s five children, cried during a press conference Wednesday while talking about Sterling, who was known as the “CD Man,” an easy-going guy who was not known for confrontation.
“The individuals involved in this murder took away a man with children who depended on their daddy on a daily basis,” she said. “As this video has been shared across the world, you will see with your own eyes how he was handled unjustly and killed without regard for the lives that he helped raise. I, for one, will not rest and will not allow him to be swept into the dirt.”
The investigation into Sterling’s death is just beginning, but the account of another Black father being shot and killed by police is a distressing, familiar tale.
What do you think?