Protests erupted in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday following the release of a graphic video showing the point-blank and fatal shooting by local police of Alton Sterling, a black man who, according to his family and witnesses, had been peacefully selling CDs on a city sidewalk before the police approached him.
Sterling was tasered, tackled to the ground and held there by two police officers who fired multiple shots into him, killing him shortly after 12:30am on Tuesday. An autopsy showed that he died of gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
Local media outlets aired the cell phone video footage of Sterling’s killing on Tuesday evening, and dozens of protesters took to the streets in Baton Rouge in response, chanting “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace.”
The shooting occurred amid rising nationwide awareness and protests against police violence that disproportionately targets black men and women.
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In fact, Louisiana only a month ago passed a “Blue Lives Matter” law that lashes back against the Black Lives Matter movement, enshrining the police as a protected class against hate crimes—the only law of its kind in the country.
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Sterling’s wife said, “The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis.” She continued, “I, for one will not rest[…] until adequate punishment is served to all parties involved.”
Next to her, Sterling’s fifteen-year-old son broke down sobbing, saying, “I want my daddy.”
Sterling’s “death is hard to watch and hard to ignore,” the NAACP Legal Defense Fund observed on Twitter. Sterling is the 558th person murdered by police in the U.S. so far this year, according to the civil rights organization.
Last year, nearly 1,000 people were shot and killed by police.
In a statement (pdf), the Baton Rouge Police Department said that the police officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
The president of the local NAACP branch has demanded that the city’s police chief and chief executive resign.
“We’re actually here today to speak to the culture of the Baton Rouge Police Department. This incident is only one incident in many,” Michael McClanahan told reporters Wednesday, according to CNN. “What we’re going to do is root out the one percent of bad police officers that go around being the judge, the jury and executioner of innocent people, period, but more specifically, innocent black lives.”
The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate the killing, Louisiana’s governor said on Wednesday.