Alton Sterling died at the hands of two Baton Rouge police officers in July 2016. But Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced on Tuesday that no charges will be filed against them. According to CNN, “countless hours” were spent on the investigation into the officers’ actions, but authorities have determined that the use of lethal force was “well-founded and reasonable.”
In cell phone video captured by two different eyewitnesses, Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II had Sterling pinned to the ground before Salamoni shot him. Landry said during a press conference that the officers repeatedly used several non-lethal maneuvers in an effort to subdue the 37-year-old father, also known as the “CD man.” He insists that since Sterling did not follow orders and continued to struggle during the 60-second encounter, the use of lethal force was warranted.
When the 911 call was originally placed, a report was made by a homeless man saying that Sterling was standing outside the Triple S Food Mart when he approached him asking for money. Sterling reportedly showed the man his gun. Baton Rouge Police allege that they believed Sterling to be armed and that he was reaching for his gun during their struggle. Nothing in the video has confirmed this narrative.
Landry, however, said that the footage didn’t disprove the officers’ statements either. Based on what the officers were told by dispatch, investigators concluded that Salamoni and Lake acted accordingly.
The attorney general’s decision strikes a blow to the family’s quest for justice in this case. Last May, federal prosecutors declined to press civil rights charges against the officers citing insufficient evidence. The family, however, has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit. CNN reported that the family views the behavior of both officers as characteristic of the culture of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Attorneys for the family intend to move forward swiftly in the civil matter.
The Sterling family held a press conference shortly after Landry made his announcement. Lawyers representing the family expressed extreme disappointment in the decision and pointed to the stress that the lengthy investigation has caused the family. Attorney L. Chris Stewart called the decision political, according to the Advocate. Members of the family cited racism as the root problem and warned that letting Salamoni go free is akin to putting a murderer back on the street.