In July 2016, Alton Sterling was shot at point blank range after Baton Rouge police confronted him outside a convenience store (as he sold CDs). Within a few days, the circumstances surrounding Sterling’s death became the subject of a Department of Justice probe, for multiple eyewitnesses told investigators that Sterling never withdrew a weapon. Indeed, additional video footage showed that Sterling wasn’t holding a gun when police shot him, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ DOJ has decided not to charge the officers involved in Sterling’s death.
The incident, which saw a heartbreaking call for justice from Sterling’s wife, sparked weekends of protests in the aftermath. The Washington Post has received word from four sources that the DOJ is planning an announcement, although the department hasn’t informed Sterling’s family. The Baton Rouge Police Department is reportedly bracing for the announcement:
“We have not heard nor received an update and are unaware of any charges that may or may not be filed,” said Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the Sterling family’s attorneys. “We have not received word, nor has the family been given any notice of upcoming updates regarding this case.”
The case will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to prosecute officers investigated for possible wrongdoing in a high-profile case, and officials in Baton Rouge have been girding for a possible reaction.
The New York Times confirms the report with sources of their own and notes that this high-profile case will stand as an example for the Trump White House, which is — as with any new administration — subject to scrutiny on how they will the issue of police brutality, particularly in racially-charged cases such as Sterling’s death. The decision not to bring charges against the officers arrives after AG Sessions began to roll back decades of police reform and ended independent oversight of federal forensic evidence.
Sessions’ hard-line actions also follow Senator Cory Booker’s unprecedented move of testifying against Sessions during his confirmation hearing for what Booker described as a “failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans.”
Amid protests in Baton Rouge following Sterling’s death, tensions came to a boil, and a lone gunman shot and killed multiple police officers, which left both protesters and police struggling to cope with the all-around terrifying and senseless deluge of violent happenings.
UPDATE: CNN reports that the DOJ has made a formal announcement on the matter. Federal investigators say they lacked evidence to bring charges against the cops.