On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot dead at close range by two Baton Rouge Police Department officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The officers were attempting to control Sterling’s arms, and Sterling was shot by them while allegedly reaching for the loaded handgun in his pants pocket. Police were responding to a report that a man in a red shirt was selling CDs and that he had used a gun to threaten a man outside a convenience store. The owner of the store where the shooting occurred said that Sterling had started carrying a gun a few days prior to the event as other CD vendors had been robbed recently. He also said that Sterling was “not the one causing trouble” during the situation that led to the police being called. The shooting was recorded by multiple bystanders.
The shooting led to protests in Baton Rouge and a request for a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice investigated but in May 2017 decided that it would not file criminal charges against the police officers. In response, Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, said the state of Louisiana would open an investigation into the shooting once the Department of Justice released the physical evidence. In March 2018, Landry’s office announced it would not bring charges against the officers stating that they acted in a “reasonable and justifiable manner”.