Civil Rights

Justice Department to investigate police shooting of black man in Baton Rouge

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Department of Justice

The fatal shooting of a black man by Baton Rouge police Tuesday sparked protests and an announcement of a federal civil rights investigation.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will lead the investigation into the shooting death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Baton Rouge Advocate report.

A video of the shooting showed a police officer or officers apparently shooting Sterling while he is pinned to the ground. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the probe Wednesday and said the video “is disturbing to say the least.”

Police officers confronted Sterling after responding to a report of a man selling music CDs outside a Triple S Food Mart who threatened someone with a gun. The video shows an officer tackling Sterling, who is held to the ground.

Someone on the video says, “He’s got a gun. Gun!” There are two noises on the video that sound like gunshots. At that point, the person recording the video apparently drops the cellphone. More apparent gunshots can be heard.

The owner of the store, Abdullah Muflahi, told local reporters that the officer tackled Sterling after Sterling was shot with a stun gun but remained standing. Muflahi told the Baton Rouge Advocate that Sterling was not holding a weapon and his hand was nowhere near his pocket during the incident.

After Sterling was shot, police pulled a gun from Sterling’s pocket, Muflahi told CNN. Muflahi said he has known Sterling for six years and he never saw him get into any fights. Muflahi added that he didn’t see any confrontation that would have provoked a call to police about Sterling on the night in question.

Sterling was known as the “CD man” for selling DVDs and CDs outside the store. A lawyer representing his family, Edmond Jordan, told CNN that Sterling was beloved and respected in the community.

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