WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the shooting death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man who was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, early Tuesday morning.
“The FBI’s New Orleans Division, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana have opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Alton Sterling,” said David Jacobs, a spokesman for the department. “The Justice Department will collect all available facts and evidence and conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation.”
Sterling was killed after officers responded to reports of a man carrying a gun, threatening others and selling CDs in front of a Triple S convenience store. Sterling was shot in the chest and back multiple times, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a press conference on Wednesday that he had faith in the DOJ’s probe.
“I have full confidence that this matter will be investigated thoroughly, impartially and professionally,” he said.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said he would fully cooperate with the federal investigation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) weighed in on the DOJ probe, saying police killings should always warrant an investigation by the department.
Hillary Clinton released a statement on the DOJ investigation late Wednesday evening:
“The death of Alton Sterling is a tragedy, and my prayers are with his family, including his five children. From Staten Island to Baltimore, Ferguson to Baton Rouge, too many African American families mourn the loss of a loved one from a police-involved incident. Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that our country doesn’t consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin.
“I am glad the Department of Justice has agreed to a full and thorough review of this shooting. Incidents like this one have undermined the trust between police departments and the communities they serve. We need to rebuild that trust. We need to ensure justice is served. That begins with common sense reforms like ending racial profiling, providing better training on de-escalation and implicit bias, and supporting municipalities that refer the investigation and prosecution of police-involved deaths to independent bodies. All over America, there are police officers demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from and build on those examples.
“Progress is possible if we stand together and never waver in our fight to secure the future that every American deserves.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) had called on the Justice Department early Wednesday morning to look into Sterling’s shooting.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident,” he continued. “The cause of justice requires state and local law enforcement to join in this request as soon as possible.”
A graphic video of Sterling’s shooting began circulating on social media late Tuesday night.
Sterling is the 558th person to be killed by police in the U.S. this year, according to The Counted, a project by The Guardian that tracks fatal police shootings.
This story has been updated with a statement from Hillary Clinton.