BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry went before a slew of cameras and local and national media Tuesday to announce that he would not bring state criminal charges against two Baton Rouge police officers involved in the shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store.
Landry said Sterling had illegal drugs in his system at the time he was shot to death.
"Our investigation has concluded Officers (Howie) Lake and (Blane) Salamoni attempted to make a lawful arrest of Alton Sterling based upon probable cause," said Landry. "During that encounter, Mr. Sterling continued to resist the officers' efforts. The officers used verbal commands of varying degrees and tried to control Mr. Sterling with several non-lethal techniques. Toxicology reports showed the presence of several scheduled and illegal substances, drugs in Mr. Sterling's system at the time of the incident. Considering this, it is reasonable that Mr. Sterling was under the influence and that contributed to his non-compliance."
Landry said his probe included re-examination of the evidence provided by federal investigators, including witness statements, videos and photographs and toxicology reports. He said his office went back and re-interviewed witnesses.
Landry refused to take any questions and left the room following his statement.
He told reporters that Sterling was eventually shot six times by Officer Blane Salamoni after a struggle on the ground. Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake had responded to a 911 call about a man fitting Sterling's description who was selling CDs outside the store and had threatened someone with a gun.
"As the struggle continues, several more attempts to control Mr. Sterling's hands are made. Officer Salamoni then can be heard loudly saying, 'he's going for the gun.' Officer Salamoni then fires three shots into the chest of Mr. Sterling," said Landry.
He said even after being shot Sterling did not succumb so the officer fired again.
"As Mr. Sterling attempts to get up, Officer Salamoni fires three additional shots into the back of Mr. Sterling. These shots incapacitate Mr. Sterling. Officer Lake then quickly approaches Mr. Sterling and removes a loaded .38 caliber handgun from his right front pocket. These are the facts," Landry stated.
Sterling's family said they were disappointed and will press ahead in court. A civil suit has been filed.
"It takes courage to have political office, it takes courage to be a prosecutor, it takes courage to fight for justice and we didn't see that in this situation. We were disappointed that he is not seeking justice, we were disappointed that they didn't even take it to a grand jury, we were disappointed in reading this very biased report," said L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Sterling family.
"And to put Blane Salamoni back on the streets of Baton Rouge, you're putting a killer back on the streets, that's all I have to say," said Sterling's aunt, Sandra Sterling.
"There is no amount of money in this world that can give those kids back their father, they took a human away, they took a father away, they took somebody away that did not deserve to be away. The way they killed him was in cold blood, you know it, I know it, but yes, the system has failed us," said Quinyetta McMillon, mother of one of Sterling's children.
"We will prove in a court of law that the actions of these officers were outrageous, they were not necessary, " said Michael Adams, another attorney for the family.