A cell phone video that emerged Wednesday shows that Alton Sterling apparently was not holding a gun when police officers fatally shot him in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday.
The Daily Beast first published the disturbing video, which it obtained from Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the convenience store where the shooting took place. Muflahi told the news organization that Sterling was not causing trouble and that he had been a “welcome presence at the store for years.”
Two white police officers shot Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, as he sold CDs in the convenience store’s parking lot early Tuesday morning. Authorities were responding to a complaint about an armed man threatening people outside the store.
Eyewitness video of Sterling’s death began circulating on social media on Tuesday. It showed Sterling on the ground, pinned underneath two officers. At one point, one of the police officers shouted, “He’s got a gun!” One of the officers is then seen holding a gun at Sterling’s chest at nearly point-blank range. Seconds later, Sterling is shot multiple times.
Paramedics pronounced Sterling dead when they arrived on the scene.
Police have claimed that Sterling was armed, but the new video does not show Sterling holding a weapon or behaving in a threatening manner.
The graphic footage, which was filmed close to the incident, appears to show two officers pinning Sterling to the ground just before several rounds are fired at him. Moments later, an officer shouts and at least three more shots are heard. As one officer sits on the ground, a second officer is seen pulling an object from Sterling’s right pocket. Sterling, still alive and with a visible wound to his chest, moves his left arm toward his head and face.
Sterling’s death has sparked outrage across the nation, as well as calls for an independent investigation into the slaying. The NAACP has called for the mayor and chief of police to resign over the killing, and the U.S. Department of Justice has already opened an investigation into the incident.
The Baton Rouge Police Department has provided scant details on what happened between the officers and Sterling. At a press conference Wednesday, Baton Rouge Chief of Police Carl Dabadie Jr. called Sterling’s death a “horrible tragedy,” but said there was still a lot not understood about the incident.
The department placed the two officers involved in the shooting on administrative leave on Tuesday, and later identified them as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II.
District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III said the “officers feel they were completely justified” in the shooting.
Sterling was the 558th person to be killed by police in the U.S. this year, according to The Guardian’s database, The Counted.