Federal prosecutors opened a civil rights probe Wednesday into the police slaying of a black man in Louisiana, as a second disturbing video emerged of him pinned to the pavement and being blasted by a cop at point-blank range.
Baton Rouge police insisted that 37-year-old Alton Sterling was armed when two white officers approached him during the confrontation early Tuesday.
But in two videos of the shooting, Sterling cannot be seen with any weapon.
One video, posted on social media, shows one of the two officers tackling Sterling before the second cop jumps on him, too.
It appears Sterling is flat on his back when one of the officers pulls his gun. A voice can be heard screaming, “He’s got a gun!” before shots ring out.
A second, more graphic video, posted by the Daily Beast late Wednesday afternoon, appears to be taken from right over the shoulder of a cop who had Sterling pinned.
Warning: Video is extremely graphic
The camera jerks away as shots are fired, but quickly pans back to Sterling’s motionless body as he bleeds from a gaping chest wound, with both hands open.
State and Baton Rouge city officials said the FBI and the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will lead the investigation into Sterling’s death.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. — speaking Wednesday before that second, more troubling video emerged — said his officers responded to the Triple S Food Mart at about 12:35 a.m. Tuesday after a call “from someone who stated that a black male selling CDs and wearing a red sweat shirt threatened them with a gun.”
“When officers arrived, Sterling was armed and the altercation ensued that resulted in the loss of his life,” added Dabadie, who didn’t disclose what type of weapon Sterling allegedly was carrying.
Dabadie identified the cops as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, four- and three-year veterans of the force, respectively.
“And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers,” said Dabadie, promising that “no stone would be left unturned” in this upcoming probe.
Investigators have the body cameras worn by both cops, but they were jostled during their struggle with the father of five, police said.
“That footage may not be as good as we hoped for,” said police Lt. Johnny Dunham.
Abdullah Muflahi, owner of the Triple S Food Mart, said he witnessed cops taking a gun out of Sterling’s pocket after he was shot. Muflahi said Sterling had been packing heat recently after being mugged.
“His hand was nowhere [near] his pocket,” Muflahi told The Advocate of Baton Rouge, adding that he never saw Sterling holding a gun during the confrontation. “They [police] were really aggressive with him from the start.”
The two cops involved have been placed on administrative leave, as per the department’s policy in officer-involved shootings.
“I have very serious concerns,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “The video is very disturbing, to say the least.”
Sterling’s loved ones claimed Wednesday he was the victim of “murder.”
“Alton Sterling, regardless if you knew him or not, he is not what the mass media is making him out to be,” said Quinyetta McMillan, mom of Sterling’s 15-year-old son, Cameron, who wept uncontrollably as she spoke.
“With that being said, the individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis.”
Sterling was listed as 5 feet 11 and 310 pounds in a Louisiana sex-offender registry. He was convicted in 2000 for having sex with a minor before his release in 2004.
Sterling’s death was the 505th at the hands of on-duty police officers in 2016, according to a Washington Post database. There were 990 people shot dead by police in 2015, the same database showed.