So, where are we now that the U.S. Department of Justice has “officially” announced that the two Baton Rouge police officers involved in the shooting death of Alton Sterling will not be charged with violating his civil rights when they shot and killed him?
We’re probably thinking about the reasoning for the decision, the slipshod manner in which DOJ decision was announced, and where we go from here. Here’s my take.
The DOJ’s reasoning, essentially is: Sterling had a gun, and Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II approached him and gave him instructions that he didn’t follow. The police officers jumped him, and Sterling struggled against them, and according to the officers, reached for a gun. The officers, in turn, felt their lives were in danger, and one of them pumped several bullets into his chest and back at body-to-body range. Case closed.
No justice, no peace, reform the municipal civil service law! Such a stirring call might not…
But there have been recent comments from attorneys for Sterling family members about evidence they say the public has not seen or heard that could be disturbing enough to give rise to charges being filed. We shall see.
By the way, all of the information that the DOJ has seen ought to be made public, soon.
Even so, I stand by a contention I raised in a column last year that the killing could have been avoided. The officers knew when they went on the call that Sterling had a gun. Why not have four or five officers arrive at the scene? Such an overwhelming show of force could have made Sterling give up immediately. I have seen half a dozen police officers show up for one drunk guy shouting and walking down the street.
A 10-month investigation into the confrontation with two Baton Rouge policemen that left Alt…
It was an overwhelming show of force that local law enforcement exhibited last year at a couple of protest demonstrations. They brought out tanks, officers in video game-looking combat gear and snazzy-looking weapons with the purpose of their protection but also to hopefully make demonstrators think twice before becoming involved with law enforcement.
The possible poor reaction by the officers on the Sterling call was probably the point of comments by Corey Amundson, the acting U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge. He said Wednesday in the official DOJ announcement that it "is not enough to show that an officer acted recklessly or with negligence or by mistake, exercised bad judgment, used bad tactics or even that the officer escalated the situation where he could have deescalated” to prove a violation of a person’s civil rights.
Now we are at a point where the state attorney general and the Louisiana State Police will investigate and determine if criminal charges should be filed against Salamoni and Lake. Some feel that given the DOJ decision, such charges are not likely. That decision may be justifiable. We shall see.
Then there was the hideous way the Sterling family and Baton Rouge found out about the DOJ decision. Someone leaked the decision to a Washington Post reporter, and the information was made public before the family, the governor or the mayor were made aware. How horrible for the Sterling family. But this is the President Donald Trump administration, where information is leaked to the media all of the time. (Thanks goodness for some of them.) As unfortunate as it is, this is another of those leaks.
Because of the sensitivity of the matter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions probably owes, at the least, the Sterling family a personal apology. Probably not going to happen, though.
It was impressive that East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome visited with the Sterling family after the news broke. Her taking the lead in this situation was absent in the prior administration. But Broome should have also visited with Salamoni, Lake and their families. This has been a rough 10 months for them and their families, too. The officers and their supporters believe their actions were justified.
Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will not seek charges against two white po…
Now concern builds that various groups will launch protests that may turn violent. There is no doubt that days of protests will be here this weekend for sure — probably at the convenience store where Sterling was killed and near the police headquarters on Airline Highway.
Hopefully, those who will be using their constitutional right to assemble and protest will act responsibly. The same goes for law enforcement who should not act as antagonists or a conquering military force.
Baton Rouge deserves peaceful protests, including the Sterlings, the police officers and the families of the three law enforcement officers senselessly killed last year, and the others wounded in the same horrific shooting.
We owe it to an emotionally battered community still reeling from those events and the devastating 2016 floods.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes weekly Advocate column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.