Human rights advocates said Tuesday that Louisiana’s Justice Department acted in violation of international standards when it decided it would not prosecute two white police officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling, a black man, at close range while he was laying on the ground in Baton Rouge two years ago.
“The decision of the Louisiana Department of Justice is a reflection of the urgent need to review both state and federal laws governing when and how police should use deadly force,” said Kristina Roth, senior program officer for Amnesty International USA, in a statement. “Neither Louisiana, nor any other U.S. state, complies with international standards that maintain deadly force can only be used when there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury.”
Cell phone videos of Sterling’s shooting showed him being held down on the ground by the two officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, outside a grocery store. The police had responded to calls of a man brandishing a gun at the store.
Although Sterling was on the ground, Salamoni fired his weapon at him several times, killing him, after a bystander yelled, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” The encounter lasted less than 90 seconds.
The state’s decision came 11 months after the federal government decided not to prosecute the officers. Civil rights groups and gun control advocates alike condemned the Justice Department’s decision on social media.
#AltonSterling Not only is this expected, it has been codified into our laws since the founding of this country. Our communities are stuck in a cycle of trauma where we witness endless feeds of murdered Black bodies but see no accountability. We’ve seen this many times before. pic.twitter.com/Xasb7r8chb
— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) March 27, 2018
BREAKING: The Louisiana Attorney General just announced that they will not be charging the officers who brutally murdered Alton Sterling – shooting him in the chest & back.
Of course, the family is crushed.
But Michael Bennet was arrested for touching a woman’s shoulder. pic.twitter.com/IsDg9Y2I7y
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) March 27, 2018
Alton Sterling’s death was yet another example of police brutality against people of color.
— ACLU (@ACLU) March 27, 2018
Gun violence in the US is deeply tied to racial inequities and disproportionately impacts black Americans:
Black males are 13x more likely to be victims of gun homicide than white males
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 27, 2018
This is gun violence.
We have to fight for Alton Sterling.
We have to stop the senseless violence and death.
Pressure your public servants — The universe is on the side of justice. https://t.co/6NHEWum0t2
— Matt Deitsch (@MattxRed) March 27, 2018
“I want people to know the truth about Alton,” Veda Washington, Sterling’s aunt, told reporters Tuesday. “He was murdered by two white, racist police officers. He was murdered like an animal…You saw the videos. But they said they didn’t see anything wrong.”
So disturbing. Tragic. Sad. This woman should never have to go through this. I feel so bad after seeing her level of pain and frustration while the killers and their defenders just sit back.
– Alton Sterling’s aunt Veda Washington pic.twitter.com/fVkIHxN7Yp
— Black Lives Matter (@voiceblm) March 27, 2018
Louisiana’s decision comes days after protests broke out in Sacramento, Calif., where Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, was shot by two police officers while standing in his own backyard.
At the Huffington Post, Lilly Workneh and Taryn Finley added the ruling to a list of 21 examples of police officers walking free in recent years after shooting black victims.
“The list goes on and on of black men, women and children who died as a result of encounters with law enforcement and receive no justice while those responsible for their deaths―the same ones who pledge to ‘protect and serve’―face little to no repercussions,” they wrote.