Following the viral, searing video of the shooting, the Justice Department has opened a case against the Baton Rouge police department. Governor John Bel Edwards and other city officials have promised their citizens and others who follow the case full transparency throughout the investigation. However, considering the nature of the case, officials are urging everyone to remain calm.
“I have full confidence that this matter will be investigated thoroughly, impartially and professionally,” Mr. Edwards said in announcing the federal takeover of the case. “I have very serious concerns. The video is disturbing, to say the least.”
“I know that that may be tough for some," the governor continued after requesting everyone stay calm, "but it’s essential that we do that. I know that there are protests going on, but it’s urgent that they remain peaceful.”
According to The New York Times, two white Baton Rouge police officers, who have since been identified as Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, were arresting Sterling "after responding to a call about an armed man." They had him pinned to the ground "when at least one of them shot him."
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Sandra Sterling, Alton's aunt, said that while she understood everyone's anger – she had raised Sterling – called for peace: “I’m mad. [But] I’m not angry enough to hurt nobody.”
Louisiana city councilman LaMont O. Cole called the two police officers "cowards," saying they had "perpetrated this brutal attack, and then murdered this young man."
A lawyer representing the Sterling family has welcomed the inclusion of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the F.B.I., and the US attorney's office. Each office will be conducting their own investigation of Sterling's death.
“We’re confident that it won’t be swept under the rug,” said the lawyer, Edmond Jordan, who is also a state representative. “I think people are confident that justice will be pursued.”
While reports will show Sterling had a criminal history, it is still unclear if any of these previous convictions played a role in his arrest. A video taken by the owner of the store where Sterling was arrested showed one of the officers holding a gun over Sterling while he was pinned to the ground. Further viewing shows an officer taking something out of Sterling's pocket after he was shot.
Sterling died at the scene. The Baton Rouge police department has declined to say whether or not both officers fired their weapons.