No federal criminal charges will be filed against Baton Rouge police officers in the videotaped shooting death of CD seller Alton Sterling, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Prosecutors announced that decision in a press conference on May 3. “After an exhaustive almost year-long investigation, all of the prosecutors and agents involved in this case have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to charge either officer with a federal crime in connection with this incident,” Baton Rouge Acting United States Attorney Corey Amundson said, according to NBC News.
The Post said it had interviewed multiple people who told the newspaper that the Justice Department “has decided not to bring charges against the officers involved in the death of Alton Sterling.” The newspaper noted it would be the first Justice no charging decision in a high-profile police shooting under new AG Jeff Sessions.
The government has not formally announced that decision, however, and The Post said the Sterling family had not yet been informed of it on May 2.
The officers were previously identified as Officer Blane Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake II. The officers, both 28-year-olds with less than five years with the department, were placed on paid administrative leave at the time of the shooting.
Sterling was selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart, WAFB-TV reported at the time. Officers had responded to a disturbance call in which the caller said someone had been threatening him with a gun, police told the news station. A witness told The Advocate that Sterling did have a gun, but was not holding it or reaching for his pockets during the incident.
NBC News reported that “rumors” that a decision was coming down in the Sterling death were rippling through Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a city now bracing for the possibility of renewed protests.
Sterling’s death in the summer of 2016 sparked a series of protests and led to the arrests of more than 150 people, NBC reported. The shooting death was a motivating factor in the ambush-style shootings of police officers later in the summer.
At the time, the police spokesman said in a statement that the two officers were responding to a “disturbance call from a complainant who stated that a black male who was selling music cd’s and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun” and that an “altercation between Sterling and the officers ensued. Sterling was shot during the altercation and died at the scene.”
NBC News reported that Baton Rouge police say that they haven’t received word of a Justice Department decision, either.
Sterling’s death was captured on a viral cell phone video. A 48-second video recorded on a bystander’s cell phone shows the fatal shooting of the 37-year-old man by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
According to the AP, the federal decision doesn’t rule out the possibility of state charges.