Alton Sterling, a 37 year old father of four was killed by Baton Rouge police in the early morning hours of July 5, 2016. Videos from Abdullah Muflahti and Arthur Reed (the store owner and Black Lives Matter activist, respectively) show a graphic scene of the father being shot at point-blank-range. Baton Rouge police responded to a call from an unidentified individual that claimed a man matching Alton Sterling’s description “pulled a gun on him” according to The Daily Beast. Officials have released the identities of the the police officers: Blane Salamoni a “four-year department veteran and Howie Lake II, a three-year veteran, both of them white. Local Baton Rouge news outlet, The Advocate, wasted no time since Tuesday night on finding out the personal details of Sterling. His criminal record reaches back as far as 2000, where he had to register as a sex offender after being convicted of one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Regardless of his past his family, community, and Black civic leaders (such as the local leader of the NAACP) are demanding the resignation of the police chief, Carl Dabadie.
The S-Mart in the 2000 block of N Foster Drive of Baton Rouge, LA is reported by Google’s map services to be open 24-hours and open today. Alton Sterling’s name and story have gone viral, just as video of his death has. Social media has made the flow of information simple, however, it will be interesting to see how these videos play a role in the ongoing investigations by the police department and Justice Department. Abdullah Muflahti says that police asked for the surveillance footage from his store but he refused to turn it over without a warrant. “I told them I would like to be in the store when [they took it]… They told me they didn’t want me to see the footage. I never received a warrant, but the video was taken anyway…” commented Muflahti. Sharida Sterling (Alton’s cousin) spoke to The Advocate and admitted she “remains skeptical about the 911 caller who said her cousin had pointed a gun, as well as the report about the body cameras coming loose.” She called on law enforcement to conduct a transparent investigation, saying police should release the store surveillance video.
With the onslaught of police brutality and growing distrust from people of color towards law enforcement- this most recent story is triggering. It is important to remember Alton Sterling as a man who worked to support his family. It is important to remember that Alton Sterling was a human being. While there is video evidence of his death at the hands of police officers- this is not the first time a death by the hands of police officers has been caught on camera, and made no difference. In the coming weeks, it will be important for people of color, especially Black people to support each other and remember Alton Sterling as a “great guy, [with a] big personality. CDs were his way to make income to support his family,” (TMZ Sports via NBA player Glen Davis). Say their names: Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and some many more.
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