[Content Note: Police brutality; racism; guns; death.]
Yesterday, a video surfaced of two Baton Rouge police officers physically restraining a Black man named Alton Sterling, who was selling CDs outside a convenience store. They tased him, forced him to the ground, and shot him at point-blank range. He died at the scene. The New Orleans Advocate reports that the local coroner said a preliminary autopsy indicated Sterling died due to a homicide caused by multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
The officers claim that Sterling had a gun, but, if indeed he did, it appears to have remained in his pocket while he was killed. As we have now seen dozens of times before, witnesses to the shooting fundamentally contradict the immediate police account of the killing. The two officers involved "have been put on paid administrative leave, though it's believed that only one fired his weapon. ...The officers were wearing body cameras, but they came loose during the incident and were dangling from their uniforms."
At the Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews and Michael E. Miller have compiled everything we know so far about the shooting, and they talk to Sterling's family about who he was and what they're going through.
The piece was written before the family held a heartbreaking press conference this morning. It also includes the video of the killing, which I strongly urge caution in viewing and even more so in sharing. It's important the video exists; it is not required for anyone to watch it nor to share it, especially if you are sharing it in a place where it might be triggering for people who are reeling from another deadly incident of police brutality against a Black citizen.
My condolences to Sterling's family, friends, and immediate community—and to Black people in the broader community who may once again be left feeling unsafe and devalued by their communities and their country. I take up space in solidarity with people who are angry and people who are grieving. I am angry and grieving, too, but it is not the same. It is not the same to be angry and grieving from the distance afforded and maintained by privilege.
I will certainly have more to say about this as additional information becomes available. For right now, I just want to say this: Alton Sterling was a human being who did not deserve to be killed by police. No matter what anyone else tries to say about him, or about the cop(s) who killed him, that will always be true.