In the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 5th police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana shot and killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who was reportedly selling CDs outside a convenience store. The shooting was filmed by at least two citizens. The two officers involved in the shooting, who were wearing body cameras, are on administrative leave, and the Department of Justice has launched an investigation. The shooting raises a range of questions concerning police use-of-force, body cameras, and police procedure.
According to an unnamed senior law enforcement official, Sterling presented a gun to a homeless man, who then called 911. During the scuffle between Sterling and the officers, which ended with Sterling on his back and both officers on top of him, one of the officers yelled “He’s got a gun!” Shortly afterwards Sterling was shot numerous times at point blank range. Footage shows that Sterling did not have a gun in his hand when he was shot.
Cato research associate Jonathan Blanks wrote about the shooting at Policemisconduct.net, highlighting (among other things) the “cooling off” period granted to many officers after they are involved in a shooting and before they answer questions.
Today, I discussed the shooting with Caleb O. Brown, the Cato Institute’s multimedia director.