Former FBI special agent weighs in on Alton Sterling shooting

Former FBI special agent weighs in on Alton Sterling shooting

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Agents with the FBI have now begun sifting through information in the Baton Rouge police shooting of Alton Sterling, and a former top man in New Orleans says it shouldn't take long to determine if a civil rights case will follow.

Anger over the shooting has been widespread. Gov. John Bel Edwards moved quickly to call the FBI to handle the investigation, taking it out of the hands of local authorities.

"The FBI has a stellar reputation as being impartial and independent in doing the right thing, and that's abiding by the Constitution of the U.S.," said James Bernazzani, the FBI's former New Orleans special agent in charge.

He said the agency will move quickly in determining if Baton Rouge police officers violated Sterling's civil rights.

"We cannot drag our feet on these types of  allegations," he said. "And the FBI will work independently to service the facts to arrive at a conclusion, not the other way around."

Bernazzani wouldn't pass judgment on what the two videos of the incident show.

"Let the defense and the prosecution present the facts, and let the jury decide," he said.

If it ever gets to trial, witnesses will be called and police body cam tapes will be introduced as evidence, to help determine how officers acted when they got on the scene.

"If they did what's known as police-induced jeopardy, they could have handled it a certain way - 'hey get your hands up and get on the ground, let's see what this guy, in terms of compliance, and non compliance,'" said FOX 8 legal analyst Joseph Raspanti.

Bernazanni said once the FBI investigation is complete, attorneys for the Department of Justice will be brought in to determine if there were any civil rights violations.

"They independently decide if to move forward, and that's transmitted back to the New Orleans division of the FBI, and you either have a red light or a green light," said Bernazzani.

From that point, it will be up to the U.S. attorney's office to bring charges.

Raspanti points out that it was the Justice Department that successfully brought charges in the Danziger Bridge police shootings after several other agencies failed to do so.

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