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    ‘I am that next legacy’

    When Cameron Sterling speaks, the nation watches. In July of 2016, he grabbed the attention of protestors, political leaders, television programs, and the President of the United States with his determined words of peace and quiet demeanor. The 16-year-old admonished protestors to stay peaceful and he explained to the world why his father’s life and those lives of other unarmed, Black men killed by police were valuable. 

    On May 3, Baton Rouge watched Cameron, again, with anticipation when he stepped up to the microphone for another press conference.  His family and local officials met with the U.S Department of Justice attorneys who were investigating the July 5, 2016, shooting death of his father, Alton Sterling, by two Baton Rouge police officers.

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    Alton Sterling

    To the world watching, the soft-spoken young man said, “Everyday, I wake up and miss my dad, and everyday God is with us,” he said with assurance. “No matter what goes on behind those closed doors in that court; it doesn’t matter…God is there for me. I have my brothers and sisters to look after—11 of them. But guess what, I am that next legacy. I am here after my dad.”

    He paused. His voice was steady. “God is with me. God is with all of us.” 

    His calmness was met by the family’s attorney Chris Stewart who said, “We didn’t leave the meeting defeated…We will not let rage run. It is not over! The family walked away after assuring the community that “the fight for justice would not be stopped by the DOJ inaction.”

    Questions quickly rose asking what would justice look like. 

    Justice would be having these officers fired and the state of Louisiana charge them with murder or second-degree murder. However, according the Urban League of Louisiana, charges are filed in only one percent of fatal shootings involving police.

    “There simply is not enough sufficient evidence to proceed,” said acting US Attorney Corey Amundson, but he also said the officer’s behavior—although reckless—may have been in violation of state code which Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office would have to determine. Amundson said use of force experts reviewed the case against BRPD officers Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake II and, although they criticized the officers’ techniques, the experts still determined they could not prove that the officers behaved unreasonably and willfully. 

    “Being reckless is not a basis under the law for a federal civil rights prosecution,” Amundson said. Other attorneys said the officers’ use of force was beyond reasonable. 

    “They (DOJ officials) hands down agreed that the action of the police officers that night were outrageous were inappropriate, were not following procedure, were unexplainable but that meets the threashold of the attorney generals office which is where this case is going,” Stewart said, “In my opinion attorney general Jeff Landry has a phenomenal case against these officers. Not strong, phenomenal case. There can’t be any inaction from Jeff Landry. If you follow his history, he tries to do the right thing.” 

    Stewart said they learned in the meeting that Salamoni pointed a gun to Sterling’s head and said, “I will kill you, b***h.” 

    “We heard from them that Officer Salamoni kept instigating the situation,” Stewart said. “No police officer should conduct themselves like that…We demand that the A.G. proves that the department here has a higher standard and disapproves of the actions of the officers on that day.” He said, pointing out that Landry had persecuted other officers for excessive force earlier this year.

    The Sterling case has been turned over to the Landry’s office who will evaluate all evidence, interview witnesses, and conduct internal investigation of the BRPD. 

    State Rep. Edward  Ted James has sent letters to Landry asking him to appoint a special prosecutor. In the 10-month span, U.S. District Attorney Walt Green resigned at the request of the Trump Administration and Louisiana State Police head Mike Edmundson retired. 

    Their involvement in the investigation is unknown.

    “We are a long way away from getting this resolved,” said Baton Rouge NAACP president Mike McClanahan. “We have got to stay vigilant; we have got to stay in constant pursuit of justice.”

    According to Fatal Encounters, a national project documenting the number of deaths following incidents with police, 451 people had been killed by police since 2003. 

    Alexandria journalist Tony Brown, has record 13 incidents since 2003 where Black men who were unarmed were killed during incidents with local police. To him, the DOJ’s response is a pattern of systemic decision protect officers over innocent, nonviolent citizens. “This would turn out differently if the officers had been Black and the victims white,” Brown said. 

    For 13 years, he has been a central contact for the families of victims and has used his morning talk show “Eyes Open with Tony Brown” to vet emotions and get facts around 

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    Tony Brown

    incidents with police. 

    “It keeps boiling down to the officer’s use of force and whether or not they value that person’s life. We have to remember that the premise of use of force is buried in a system that thrives on inequality. Racial inequality predominately,” he said.

    “What these officers did to Mr. Sterling was provocative to say the least and they should be prosecuted,” “Unfortunately, we in Louisiana have seen officers walk away too many times even when they are blatantly violent towards citizens,” Brown said, referring to his list of victims. “We can not forget the history here,” he said. According to Brown’s records, these unarmed Black men have died in Louisiana: 

    • Marquise Hudspeth, 25, March 15, 2003, in Shreveport. 
    • Edward Ned Jr, 48, Nov. 11, 2004, in Lake Charles.
    • George Temple II, 24,  Feb.17, 2006, in Baton Rouge
    • Baron “Scooter” Pikes Jr, 21,  Jan. 17, 2008, in Winnfield.
    • Bernard Monroe Sr, 72, Feb. 20, 2009, in Homer.
    • Richard Goss, 36,  Nov. 26, 2008, in Alexandria
    • Harold Phillips, 54, July 2009, in Colfax 
    • Robert Ricks, 23, Feb. 5, 2011, in Alexadnria. 
    • Victor White III, 22, March 3, 2014, in New Iberia
    • Cameron Tillman, 14, Feb, 23, in Houma
    • Keenan Ardoin, 24, Dec. 4, 2014, in Ville Platte. 
    • Michael Noel, 32, Dec 21, 2015 in St. Martin

    “All of the victims were Black, all were unarmed, all were killed by police,” Brown said, who reported exclusively on six of these killings.

    “With the exception of the Harold Phillips murder in Colfax, all of the killer cops were exonerated. No charges were filed,” said Brown .

    Alton Sterling, 37, was shot six times at close range while held down on the ground by two Baton Rouge police officers. Sterling was selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Police were calledby someone reporting that a man was selling CDs and threatening people with a gun. Although the store manager said he did not see a gun, the officers shouted “gun” before killing Sterling.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate
     

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    We can not give in ‘to feelings of impotent rage,’ 100 Black Men say

    Through its president Michael Victorian, The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge released the following statement Thursday morning following the U.S. Justice Department decision on the Alton Sterling case on May 3

    Baton Rouge (LA) Alton Sterling’s death is a tragedy. It is compounded further by the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against the officers involved in his death. We respect Alton’s life and mourn the loss to his family and friends. We also state, categorically, that Mr. Sterling’s life mattered. The lives of the young African-American men and women who we mentor, matter and 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge will continue to do everything within its power to help young people reach their full potential. The systematic conditions that led to Mr. Sterling’s tragic death must be met head on with love, compassion, and an unwavering determination to help make all of our communities safe and economically vibrant.

    We recognize that the findings released on yesterday are frustrating. However, we urge all people of goodwill to use this moment as a call for greater and more meaningful engagement. It is meaningful and constructive to vent, protest, and fully engage in the democratic process. However, we cannot give in, though, to feelings of impotent rage through acts of violence.  Such action will only endanger our community.

    We call on those who wish to improve the lives of people here at the corner of Fairfield and N. Foster Drive (Baton Rouge, LA) to get directly involved in dismantling injustice. Furthermore, we applaud the leadership of our East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome who early in her administration took steps to execute much needed reforms to the Baton Rouge Police Department, including these five policy changes:

    1.      Officers are required to give a verbal warning, before using deadly force, except where there are exigent circumstances.

    2.      Officers are required to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.  De-escalation strategies include disengagement, area containment, waiting out a subject, summoning reinforcements, calling in specialized units or employing other strategies.

    3.      Officers will not employ chokeholds or strangleholds, except in emergency circumstances where it is immediately necessary to use deadly force and the authorized weapons are inoperable, inaccessible or otherwise not available.

    4.      Officers are prohibited from discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle unless the vehicle or the persons within the vehicle pose an immediate deadly threat to others.

    5.      Officers will be required to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force and to immediately report when they observe the use of excessive force by another officer

    In order for these policies to have their intended effect, the Baton Rouge Police Department and its leadership must take active measures to ensure that those officers that do not comply with these policies will face serious significant discipline

    The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge is committed to continuing to engage our youth and families to strengthen our community. We hope that area citizens will answer this call to a crisis and set an example to the nation and the world as they watch.

    One Hundred Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, LTD. is a non-profit organization through which African-American males step forward and assume roles of community leadership, responsibility, and guidance.  Michael Victorian currently serves as the president and chairman of the board.

     

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    Congressman Graves: ‘this decision should have been issued sooner’

     Congressman Garret Graves (R – Baton Rouge) released the following statement today regarding the Department of Justice’s Alton Sterling decision:

     We cannot allow the tragic shootings of 2016 or the fallout to define us or our community, but we can learn from those experiences.

    All loss of life is tragic.  We’ve already lost Deputy Brad Garafola, Officer Matthew Gerald, Officer Montrell Jackson and Alton Sterling.  Deputy Nick Tullier is an amazing warrior overcoming all obstacles, but his life is forever changed and Deputy Bruce Simmons continues to recover from being shot.  Nothing good has resulted from these shootings.  Right or wrong, each loss represents a loved one, a friend, a confident, a husband, a community member – a life or part of life suddenly, prematurely, and in many cases, senselessly taken.

    The abundant evidence in this case –video footage, eyewitness accounts and other sources – faced the extensive scrutiny of both President Obama’s Department of Justice and the current Administration’s. Due to the prolific evidence, this decision should have been issued sooner; however, we trust that this decision is the product of a meticulous and fair investigation.

    The Capital Region has endured tremendous hardship – this tragedy, an ambush attack on law enforcement, historical flooding and the recent fatal shooting of a Baton Rouge Deputy.  We now have two choices:  1) We can come together as a community, be neighbors and lift one another up as we did in the August flood, or 2) We can, once again, go down the path of violence, death and loss.  Only one makes sense.

    I was born and raised in the Baton Rouge area.  What I experienced on July 17 when our officers were shot was unrecognizable.  It was like we were in a foreign country – not home.  An outsider spread his evil and hatred here.  Someone from out of state hijacked our community.  While Baton Rouge has its share of imperfections, we are better than that.

    From here, let’s work with our new mayor to convert the city we have into the city we want. I urge our community to continue to pray for the victims and their families and to pray for peace and understanding.

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