Community responds to AG’s decision, firing of Salamoni in Sterling case
Senator Regina Barrow
I’m disappointed with the decision from Attorney General Landry regarding Alton Sterling’s death. I’m upset that he took this long to do what I believe was already determined months ago. And, while I support law enforcement, I believe we must be a community of accountability. I hope we can have the kind of law enforcement we can all be proud of. I remain committed to seeing our communities become the best they can be for all of us. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome
East Baton Rouge Parish
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul concluded his administrative investigation and has made a decision in the Alton Sterling case. I have placed my trust in Chief Paul and fully support his decision. I am grateful for his leadership and his swift, decisive, and fair action on this matter. Although the investigations into this case have concluded, the dialogue does not end today. I pledge to continue to lead and facilitate respectful conversations between the community and law enforcement in an effort to build trust and understanding on both sides. The backdrop of this Holy Weekend serves as an opportunity for our community to move toward collective healing. While support and prayers for the Sterling family are encouraged, we know that these alone will not heal their family or our community. It is vital that lessons are learned from this tragedy and that we apply our knowledge to prevent future incidents and implement policies that make this community safer and more unified.
Rev. Lee T. Wesley
Together Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge Police Department Chief Murphy J. Paul did two things that showed leadership and wisdom. He said “unreasonable fear within an officer is dangerous.” Those words are echoing across the country right now. Second, he challenged us to work toward police reform and higher pay for officers as two things that need to go together, not competing visions. That’s exactly the right vision we need to work towards as a community. We thank our Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Chief Paul for their leadership.
State Representative Randal L. Gaines
Chairman, Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus
We, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus members, would like to express our disappointment in the apparent lack of justice that was demonstrated by the recent decision in the Alton Sterling police shooting. This lack of judicial action is consistent with an unfortunate pattern of “failure to prosecute” in cases that raise the question of excessive use of deadly force against Black male victims.
It is vitally important that our law enforcement authorities continue to strengthen standards, enhance training, and enforce departmental policies that enable our police departments to recruit and retain high quality law enforcement officers, as well as maintain reasonable policies that present a threat to the safety and personal well-being of our citizens.
It is also critically, important that we instill public confidence in our justice system by ensuring that any individual whose deliberate unlaw actions result in injury or loss of life of another are prosecuted under applicable provisions of law.
A meaningful, powerful response is needed. One that will resonate powerfully to galvanize us all to the realization that such actions, (the killing of Mr. Sterling as well as the institutional responses) by those cloaked in authority, are intolerable and perpetuate institutional injustice in our criminal justice systems, as well as those systems (social and economic) that serve as underlying reasons for these tragedies. I suggest such actions MUST be much more than the brief eruption of street marches and protests, but must start with personal commitments by those opposed to this type of matter and response, to stop going along with unjust systems for the sake of expedient comfort. The apparently small wrongs that are not met with opposition form the base for explosive and more dramatic wrongs, but the ultimate corrosive results are the same in both instances: the destructive de-valuation of lives.
Ernest Johnson JD
Former President, Louisiana NAACP State Conference
Firing is not Enough. We demand a Grand Jury! We demand AG Landry convene a grand jury and Open the Grand Jury to the public/press!
This can still happen legally!
What We Need!
1. Our Elected Officials to apply consistent pressure for this case to be heard by a Grand Jury.
2. Consistent Community Members congregating on his steps until he agrees to let the case be heard by a Grand Jury.
3. Jam their phone lines and email boxes until he agrees to let this be heard by a Grand Jury.
4. This state needs all 24 Black Caucus votes to pass a state budget. We need our elected officials to not vote on Approving this budget without the AG sending this case to a Grand Jury.
After watching the video showing the murder of Alton Sterling, we all should be willing to fight HARDER! AG Landry can still reconsider and have this matter heard by a Grand Jury, and this should be our ask! Some may think this is extreme, but I watched a video surrounded by extreme circumstances. AG Landry has clearly abused his power, and we need our elected officials to take on this fight!
Colleen Kane Gielskie
Assistant Director, ACLU of Louisiana
On March 27, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that his office would not bring criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling as he lay pinned by them to the ground in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge.
Attorney General Landry’s decision is two contradictory things: It is shocking, and it is unsurprising. The decision sends a clear message about policing in America today, and highlights the continuing crisis of accountability when it comes to unlawful use of excessive and deadly force by police.
The failure to hold police accountable for the killings of Black men and boys is standard practice at both the local and federal level. Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s so-called “top cop,” and his Department of Justice concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring federal civil rights charges against the officers involved in Sterling’s death. And, while the Baton Rouge Police Chief said disciplinary hearings would be held for the officers this week, the officers who killed Sterling, and whose killing of Sterling was caught on video, both remain employed by the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Sterling was one of 233 Black people shot and killed by the police in 2016. And while the national media spotlight on police violence has faded, the death toll has remained steady. The Washington Post Police Shooting Database records show 2,934 people shot and killed by police between 2015 and 2017. That’s nearly 1000 deaths per year. Earlier this month, police officers in Sacramento fired 20 rounds at Stephon Clark, who was unarmed and standing in his own backyard. He died of the wounds inflicted on him by law enforcement. As did Danny Ray Thomas, another unarmed Black man, a man in mental distress, who was killed by police in Harris County, Texas, just days ago.
Sterling’s death is a glaring reminder that police officers too often use aggressive tactics and excessive force, informed by implicit bias rather than community protection. Upon first arriving at the scene, one of the officers reportedly put a gun to Sterling’s head and said “I’ll kill you, bitch.” The AG’s report describes the officer as giving Sterling a “stern” warning: “Don’t fucking move or I’ll shoot you in your fucking head.”
A death threat is not an acceptable warning. And, coming from police and directed at Black and brown people, it is too often a promise. The ACLU of Louisiana and partner organizations are working to reform police practices to combat these killings.
Some reforms are already under way. In November 2016, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, and the City of Baton Rouge committed to use only the level of force objectively reasonable to bring an incident under control, and use deescalation techniques when dealing with protesters. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, who took office in January 2017, has successfully pushed for implicit bias training, a stronger use-of-force policy, and expanded the use of body cameras to the entire police force.
That the officers who killed Sterling have not been charged is by no means the end of this fight. There are questions that must be answered about Sterling’s death, and we demand that all body camera and surveillance footage of the incident be released. We demand accountability, equal justice, and an end to racialized policing.
Alton Sterling didn’t have to die on the pavement that night. The Baton Rouge police officers chose aggression. They chose to shoot Sterling six times. We must address and dismantle the conditions that led the officers to use deadly force when it was not needed or legal. We must end the epidemic of police violence once and for all—and bring accountability to this broken system.
> Read: No charges filed against officers in Alton Sterling shooting; Family files civil lawsuit
> Read:COMMENTARY: Dr. King, Alton Sterling, and the Difficult Days Ahead