UPDATE: The Justice Department Civil Rights Division, US Attorneys in Louisiana, and the FBI will be investigating Sterling’s killing.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) offered qualified praised for the move on Twitter, calling it “a step for justice but #AltonSterling deserved more.”
“We must dismantle structural racism #BlackLivesMatter,” Lee added.
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A congressman is calling on the Justice Department to investigate the fatal shooting by Baton Rouge, Louisiana police of a black man who was on the ground, in the process of being arrested.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) made the request, after a video of the slaying went viral Tuesday night, sparking outrage on social media and protests in Baton Rouge. Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by two cops early Tuesday morning, after they were called to a convenience store, having received an anonymous report about a man with a gun.
“There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding Mr. Sterling’s death,” Richmond said in a statement. “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.”
The video appears to show both cops pinning down Sterling, and yelling about him having a gun. Roughly six seconds after the claim, with Sterling still clearly prone and being manhandled, at least one of the officers appears to draw his weapon before unloading several rounds into Sterling.
The incident was widely described on Twitter as an “execution-style killing.” The mother of Tamir Rice — a 12 year-old boy in Cleveland shot to death by police in 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a park — characterized the slaying as an “execution-style murder.”
According to one eye witness, the owner of the convenience store, police had also used a taser on Sterling, who had been outside the store selling CDs. The store owner, Abdullah Muflahi, also said that Sterling never reached for any gun during the struggle — something the video appears to corroborate. Louisiana is an open carry state, as the Huffington Post noted.
Baton Rouge Police are already investigating the killing, according to NPR, and the two cops involved are on administrative leave. Rep. Richmond, however, said that federal investigators should join in the inquiry, “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,” Richmond added.
The Justice Department has launched a handful of probes into some high profile killings of black men by police officers. Huffington Post noted DOJ has looked into “the killings of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, among others.”
According to The Guardian, 558 people have been killed by police this year in the United States. Those killed were disproportionately black and Native American.