At 2:00 p.m. today, the United States Justice Department made the following announcement:
“After an exhaustive, almost yearlong investigation, all of the prosecutors involved have come to the conclusion there is insufficient evidence to charge either office with a federal crime. “
Last year, under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department opened an investigation into the murder of Alton Sterling by police. Apparently, under the new, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that investigation was closed and no charges will be filed. There will be no justice for Alton Sterling’s murder, just as was the case in so many others in recent years. I am reposting this post from 07 July 2016, when Mr. Sterling was so viciously, needlessly murdered. R.I.P., Mr. Alton B. Sterling.
I long for the day when I no longer have to write these stories. I no longer expect to see that day in my lifetime, but I surely can wish for it. This story, no worse than the others, has somehow left me drained, depleted, tired, and incredibly sad. Perhaps it is worse than the others, merely by merit of quantity, of the number of these I have read, only some of which I have written about. Perhaps it is because we keep hearing promises that steps are being taken to ensure it does not happen again, but then it happens again. Or perhaps because of the haters out there who have already begun to blame the victim.
The Facts of the Matter:
- Tuesday morning, at approximately 12:35 a.m., Alton B. Sterling, age 37, was selling CD’s in his usual place outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- Police received an anonymous 911 call saying a black man in a red shirt selling music CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart had threatened him with a gun.
- Police arrived on the scene and arrested Mr. Sterling, tasing him and throwing him first on the hood of a car and then on the ground where the two officers, Blane Salamoni, 28, and Howie Lake II, 29, pinned him to the ground.
- While Sterling was pinned, one of the officers pulled his gun and shot Mr. Sterling numerous times.
- Mr. Sterling was African-American. Mr. Sterling is dead.
- The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation on Wednesday, thus the investigation will not, as recent, similar killings of African-Americans by police have been, be left to state or local investigators. The FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office will also participate in the investigation.
- Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has a history of being fair. He ran for governor in 2015 based on “a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people”. Since then he has signed legislation to protect the rights of the LGBT community and rescinded an earlier order by Bobby Jindal that allowed for discriminatory practices by businesses and religious organizations. Governor Edwards has promised to ensure transparency and assistance to the Justice Department in this investigation, and I somehow believe him.
- There are at least six videos of the incident: 2 from the body cams of the officers, although apparently the quality is poor, as the cams were “dangling”; 1 from the dash-cam on the patrol car; 1 from the surveillance camera at the convenience store; and 2 from witnesses. The two by witnesses are available online, and I will include links at the end of this post.
- Protests, peaceful thus far, have sprung up drawing hundreds of people Wednesday night to the storefront where it happened.
- Police department spokesperson L’Jean McKneely, when asked if the officers had been questioned, replied that they had not, because “we give officers normally a day or so to go home and think about it.” (This, though in almost every criminal incident, witnesses are interviewed as soon as possible, as credibility of eyewitness accounts lessens with time. And what the Sam Heck is there to think about? Do they need time to corroborate their stories?)
- Officer Salamoni’s father-in-law, James Durdin, released an angry statement, saying “It burns my you-know-what when it’s – usually the black people – that try to make an agenda out of this. What I’d like to see is them with no police at all, so they can know what it’s like not to have them… The majority of (cops) would never be abusive. Does anyone give a you-know-what about that? We’ll have social chaos (without cops). I’m totally against these people.”
Given that the investigation is being conducted at the federal level, I think there is a better than even chance that the truth will come to light. Does that mean I believe justice will necessarily be served? Not necessarily. There was no justice for Trayvon Martin. There has been no justice, as yet, for Freddie Gray. There was no justice for Tamir Rice. There was no justice for Michael Brown. And either way, at the end of the day, Alton B. Sterling will still be dead and his son will still be crying for his dad.
So why do I keep writing these posts? I do so because people far too easily become complacent, become accepting that this is the status quo, that this is the norm, that this is just the way it is. If we all just sigh, then keep our mouths shut and do not speak out, then we are as guilty as anybody else. I may not make a difference, or at least not much of one, but I will not sit down and shut up! I will speak against this injustice until I take my last breath. It is who I am, and I make no apologies for that.
I have tried to write this post presenting facts and leaving out rumours and unverifiable data. I have tried to write this post calmly and somewhat dispassionately. It is difficult, if not impossible to do so, as I am literally choking on tears or rage, frustration and incredible sadness as I write. Sometimes I find shreds of humanity and, being mostly an optimist, I think, “AHA … there is hope for mankind after all.” Tonight, as I read the stories, as I do the research, and as I write this post, I cannot find that glimmer of hope. R.I.P. Mr. Alton B. Sterling.
Video Links (warning – these are not easy to watch)