Alton Sterling's family said Wednesday they are counting on the state to bring criminal charges against the Baton Rouge police officer who fatally shot him, after learning more details of the deadly July interaction from federal authorities.
Sterling family members spoke out after a long, emotional meeting with representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice who explained their decision not to charge the officer and his partner in the incident with violating Sterling's civil rights.
Sterling family members and their attorneys said they trust that criminal charges will be brought through state Attorney General Jeff Landry's office once state investigators review the evidence.
"We are even more shocked after leaving the meeting with officials from the Justice Department than we were when we saw the video," said Michael Adams, an attorney representing Sterling's three youngest children. "After (Landry) gets the information that we saw today, that we heard today, we don't think he has a choice but to bring charges against these officers."
Attorney L. Chris Stewart, who represents Alton Sterling's two oldest children, said based on new information from DOJ officials, the actions of Officer Blane Salamoni, who fatally shot Sterling, were "outrageous, unexplainable."
He said before the physical struggle between officers and Sterling that has been shared via cell phone videos, Salamoni put a gun to Sterling's head and said, "I'm going to kill you, bitch."
The family and their representatives did not see the new, classified videos used in the the FBI and DOJ investigation — which included two body cameras, dash camera and store surveillance — but were speaking from what was described to them in the meeting with officials.
"We heard from them Officer Salamoni kept instigating the situation," Stewart said. He said Sterling was shot three more times than the cell phone videos showed, bringing that to a total of six shots.
He said during the encounter DOJ officials heard "horrific language from Salamoni," but not including any racial slurs. The other involved officer, Howie Lake III, at times was trying to deescalate the situation, Stewart said.
"(DOJ officials) hands down agree the actions of the police officers that night were outrageous, were inappropriate, were not following procedure, were unexplainable," Stewart said.
Alton Sterling's aunt Sandra Sterling joined hands with the mother of his three youngest children, Andricka Williams, the mother of his 10-year-old son, Kimberly Pierson, his son Cameron Sterling and Cameron's mother Quinyetta McMillon as they took turns speaking, rain pouring in the background.
"It's no longer a civil matter, it's a human matter," Sandra Sterling said. "Alton was human, he's no longer here but his voice will be heard — though us."
She later broke down, recounting the investigation's findings that her nephew, whom she raised, was treated poorly by the officers.
"Y'all making it seem like it's Alton," Sandra Sterling said, screaming, crying. "Salamoni put that gun to his head and said, 'I'm going to kill you.' How do you think Alton felt? How do you think Alton felt after hearing it?"
Cameron Sterling, Alton Sterling's oldest son, said he still thinks of his father daily, and has accepted a new role caring for his siblings in his absence.
"My dad is now gone, so now I'm here," the 16-year-old said. "I will always be here for my family."
His mother, Quinyetta McMillon, tearfully pleaded for the state to prosecute this case.
"Jeff Landry please, open up your heart, your eyes, and give us the justice we deserve," McMillon said.
The family's lawyers also called on the Baton Rouge Police Department to think how they are spending taxpayer dollars, as both Salamoni and Lake are still on paid administrative leave.
"Officer Salamoni doesn't need to have a badge," said Justin Bamberg, also a lawyer for Sterling's two eldest sons. "If his supervisors and those individuals tasked with hiring and firing officers knew what we heard today, he should have been fired a long, long time ago. We're going to ask that Officer Salamoni be terminated immediately."