A bipartisan coalition of nine council members co-sponsored a measure Wednesday urging the Louisiana Attorney General's office to swiftly conclude its investigation into the death of Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot during an encounter with city police last summer.
The move follows what had been a string of contentious meetings that saw several people thrown out of the Metro Council's chambers in recent weeks. The discussion of the ongoing Alton Sterling investigation was comparatively tame on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors decided not to pursue a civil rights case against the officers involved. Now, the AG's office must determine whether police broke any state laws. When the state case concludes, the city will then complete its own internal affairs review to decide whether the officers involved did not follow department policy.
For months, some members of the public have spoken out urging the Council to use its sway to push the state to complete its investigation and present its findings.
"It shouldn't take six months just to review the facts. ... Give the community an answer so we can begin the healing process," The Rouge Collection publisher Gary Chambers said during Wednesday's meetings.
The council has met 27 times since Sterling died, noted Jennifer Harding, president of the Progressive Social Network of Baton Rouge. She was unimpressed by Wednesday's call to conclude the investigation, calling it a "hollow statement."
As they have in the past, speakers criticized the Council for postponing previous opportunities to discuss the case. Meetings have run over time of late, and on several occasions, time expired before the issue came up.
In response, members of the public found other opportunities they sought to use to bring their concerns before elected officials. At a recent council meeting, they demanded the shooting be addressed during a discussion of a proposed television show featuring city police.
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Discussions have been heated, and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson has responded by tossing speakers out of chambers, including the head of the local chapter of the NAACP and outspoken local activist Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed.
Only three members of the public spoke on the issue at Wednesday's meeting, and the council did not discuss the matter. The 12-member council voted unanimously to forward a letter to the Attorney General's office urging them to conclude their investigation "as expeditiously as possible."
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The Council did not take up Chambers' suggestion to attach a time frame to the request. He urged the Council to get tough with state prosecutors and demand they rule on the matter within the next 30 days.
Harding said she's been let down by leaders' response to the shooting.
"Too much time has passed. ... It's disappointing," she said.
"I've been embarrassed."
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