U.S. expected to announce no charges in Louisiana black man's shooting

Reuters News
Posted: May 03, 2017 11:38 AM

By Bryn Stole

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) - U.S. Justice Department officials were set to discuss the fatal shooting last year of a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Wednesday, following media reports that authorities had decided not to prosecute two white officers involved in the incident.

The shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, was one of a series of high-profile killings of black men by white officers in recent years that sparked nationwide protests.

Justice Department officials scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. CST (1800 GMT), a day after a white former South Carolina officer pleaded guilty in the 2015 shooting of an unarmed black man and a Texas officer was fired for shooting an unarmed 15-year-old boy on Saturday.

The rapid developments were likely to intensify scrutiny of how aggressively Republican President Donald Trump holds police accountable for racially charged killings.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said the prior administration led by Democratic President Barack Obama unfairly targeted police in civil rights investigations, has already ordered a review of federal civil rights agreements with police departments, a move that alarmed civil rights advocates.

The Justice Department has not confirmed the Louisiana media reports about a decision to not prosecute. Local officials and Sterling's relatives expressed anger that they had not been informed of the decision before it appeared in the news.

"It's not right. Lord have Mercy," Alton Sterling's aunt, Sandra Sterling, told CNN.

Sterling was killed after being confronted by Baton Rouge officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake on July 5, 2016, outside a convenience store where he sold CDs. The incident was caught on video.

At a vigil on Tuesday night outside the store, dozens of people held hands and prayed.

"It's been almost a year and we're still suffering like it was yesterday," Sandra Sterling said. "We need closure. We need conviction. We need justice."

Police in Baton Rouge, the Lousiana capital, said on Wednesday they had arrested three women at a late-night protest on a city highway near police headquarters.

Governor John Bel Edwards said he would hold a news conference with Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome immediately following the Justice Department's announcement on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the police officer in a Dallas suburb was fired three days after he fired a rifle into a car full of unarmed teenagers, killing one.

Separately, a white officer in South Carolina, Michael Slager, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for shooting dead a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back two years ago.

Slager faces up to life in prison for the killing of Walter Scott in April 2015, when the officer fired eight times at Scott's back and hit him five times. Like the shooting of Alton Sterling, Scott's death was captured on video by a bystander's cell phone and was widely circulated, fueling outrage.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)