Depending on your perspective, what occurred in Baton Rouge, LA during the early hours of Tuesday morning probably varies. It was either another example of law enforcement officials utilizing unnecessary and ultimately fatal force to subdue a black man who didn’t appear to pose an immediate threat, or an unfortunate incident of police engagement with an armed criminal that turned deadly.
According to TheAdvocate.com, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge police officer some time after 12:30 a.m., following what one witness described as “some type of altercation” between Sterling and two officers. A bystander was able to capture video footage of part of the incident on their cell phone. As is often the case these days, the video has since gone viral — and sparked outrage across the nation.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground!” an officer can be heard yelling at the beginning of the video clip. “He’s got a gun! Gun!” Soon afterwards, shots can be heard.
It’s not surprising that the clip went viral soon after being posted online, considering about 100 million Internet users watch online video content each day. For people in the black community, seeing a black man shot and killed while lying restrained on the ground is becoming a sight that is all too familiar.
Sterling was known for selling CDs on the street to make a living. According to the police report, officers were originally called to the scene because they got a call that a man selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart had pointed a gun at someone and told them to leave the property. After Sterling was shot, police did retrieve a gun from his pockets, but it appears that the weapon was never aimed at the officers or even visible to them during the encounter.
For their part, the city and police officials have said they plan to investigate the incident in a transparent and thorough fashion. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s Governor, called for calm and unity, but acknowledged the concerns of many after watching the video.
“The video is disturbing to say the least,” said Edwards.
The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. Anyone with information or more video footage is being asked to come forward to the police.