Terrence Sterling, an unarmed African-American man, was shot and killed by a Washington D.C. police officer after his motorcycle crashed into the officer’s squad car after a bachelor’s party.
Protests have been growing surrounding his September 11 death, and the city released body camera videos and announced that it could also release the officer’s name on September 27. However, the case has provoked controversy because the officer had his body camera turned off until the aftermath of the shooting, prompting a change in police policy, said The Washington Post.
Police identified the officer as Brian Trainer.
Eyewitnesses dispute the police account of how Sterling died. The Sterling protests and the video release come on the heels of riots and protests that ignited in Charlotte, North Carolina over the death of a black man, Keith Lamont Scott, at the hands of a black officer, Brentley Vinson. However, in that case, police say Scott was armed with a gun he wouldn’t drop, which his family disputes.
The video’s release also comes after the Tulsa, Oklahoma shooting of an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher by officer Betty Shelby, who was charged with criminal manslaughter for the shooting.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sterling Was on a Motorcyle When Shot & Police Say He Was Driving ‘Recklessly’
Washington D.C. police said Sterling, 31, was driving “recklessly,” according to Fox 5 DC.
According to The Washington Post, “police said he crashed his motorcycle into a cruiser.”
The police news release on the shooting reads: “At approximately 4:30 a.m., an officer observed a motorcyclist driving recklessly near the 1700 block of U Street, Northwest. A few minutes later, another MPD officer observed a motorcycle matching the same description near 3rd Street and M Street, Northwest. When the officer was exiting the passenger side of his marked police cruiser to stop the driver, the motorcyclist intentionally drove into the passenger door and the officer fired his service weapon.”
WTOP-TV reported that “police say Sterling drove his motorcycle into the passenger side of a police cruiser during a traffic stop, prompting an officer who was leaving the passenger side door to fire his weapon at Sterling.”
2. Witnesses Dispute the Police Account of the Shooting, Reports Say
According to NBC 4 Washington, several witnesses disagree with the police account of how Sterling died.
They said “the collision was unavoidable and Sterling did not intentionally strike the cruiser,” indicated the television station, adding, “They also said the officer was not trying to get out of his car, but instead rolled his window down and shot Sterling from inside the car after the crash.”
People on Twitter have been raising questions about the shooting using the hashtag #TerrenceSterling.
The officer was placed on administrative leave and was not seriously injured, the police news release said. WJLA says the shooting “is still under review by the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
3. Sterling Had Just Left a Bachelor’s Party When Shot & Colin Kaepernick Has Spoken out About the Shooting
According to Fox 5 DC, Sterling was a VAC technician who had just left a bachelor’s party on the night the shooting occurred.
The television station reported that Sterling was heading home. Sterling lived in Fort Washington, Maryland, according to NBC 4 Washington.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spoke out about Sterling’s shooting, saying, “There was an incident yesterday where Terrence Sterling was murdered, unarmed black man, I mean, once again,” Kaepernick said. “It’s become habitual.”
According to WJLA, Sterling’s cousin described him as “a kind…help anybody person,” who was “just so excited about life and his career.”
4. Protesters Have Demanded More Transparency in the Shooting Death
On September 26, protesters stopped traffic on New York Avenue, demanding more openness about the shooting death of Sterling, which occurred September 11, said WTOP.
Washington 4 TV reported that protesters held signs saying things like “Justice for Terrence” and “We Need Answers.”
5. Controversy Erupted Because the Officer’s Body Camera Was Switched off When the Shooting Occurred
The city was preparing September 27 to release the video footage that does exist. However, people are upset because the officer’s body camera was switched off when the shooting started. Cameras captured the aftermath of the shooting only, said Atlanta Black Star.
The shooting occurred around 4:30 a.m., said Atlanta Black Star.
D.C. police have posted detailed information about the body cameras their officers wear here.
See the video from the aftermath of Sterling’s shooting here. Warning, the video is graphic: