A graphic video shows a Baton Rouge police officer shooting and killing Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who was selling CDs in front of a convenience store early Tuesday morning.
The video appears to have been shot by a witness to the incident.
The Baton Rouge Police Department has not provided many details on what happened between the officers and Sterling or what caused the officer to pull his firearm, according to The New Orleans Advocate. Investigators are still working to find out what caused the incident to escalate.
WAFB-TV, a local station, reports that Sterling was selling CDs in front of a Triple S Food Mart. According to the station, the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office says Sterling was shot in the chest and back multiple times.
Baton Rouge Police said the shooting happened around 12:30 a.m. after officers were called to the scene following reports of a man carrying a gun, threatening others and selling CDs in front of the store.
Warning: This video contains graphic content.
Following the shooting, one of the officers removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket. But Abdullah Muflahi, the owner and manager of the Triple S Store, told the Advocate that Sterling wasn’t holding a weapon -- and his hands weren’t close to his pockets -- during the altercation.
Louisiana is an open-carry state.
The Baton Rouge Police Department placed the two officers on administrative leave as of Tuesday evening. The department later identified the officers involved as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II.
Body cameras worn by the two officers involved fell off during the altercation, but there is footage from a dashboard camera and at least one surveillance camera, Louisiana state Rep. Denise Marcelle told WAFB-TV.
Authorities said that the body camera footage from the shooting is available, but they are unsure of how useful it will be in the investigation.
Protesters took to the streets Tuesday night to stand against what they see as another unjustified instance of police violence.
As some on social media pointed out after the shooting, the state of Louisiana has extensive legal protection for cops, such as its recent “Blue Lives Matter” law. The bill, signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) in May, allows prosecutors to bring hate crime charges against people who attack police officers, EMTs or firefighters.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said footage of Sterling's shooting is "deeply troubling" and called for a Justice Department investigation into the man's death.
“There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding Mr. Sterling's death, including questions about the initial calls for police presence, the level of force used by officers, the verbal and physical altercation and the response of the officers after he was shot," Richmond said in a statement. "I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident. The cause of justice requires state and local law enforcement to join in this request as soon as possible.”
“I ask the leaders and citizens of Baton Rouge to join me in demonstrating our anger with dignity and demanding proper focus on our cause with perseverance. His family and the citizens of Baton Rouge -- especially the citizens of North Baton Rouge -- deserve answers and that is what we will seek in a fair, thorough, and transparent way,” Richmond continued.
Sterling was the 558th person to be killed by police in the U.S. this year, according to The Guardian's database, The Counted.
This article has been updated with the names of the officers and information about the body camera footage.
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