This morning I narrowly missed seeing a Black man being murdered on my Instagram feed. I told myself, after watching Eric Garner take his last breaths on the pavement, police officers blocking his airway, that I couldn’t and wouldn’t watch those types of videos anymore. They’re too much for my spirit. I was hoping that there wouldn’t be anymore. But apparently it’s still too early for that.
Still, I need to be informed about what happened to this man, the most recent unarmed, Black man to die at the hands of police.
His name is Alton Sterling. Now known as #AltonSterling.
According to the NBC News, Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five (Other reports say three.), was selling music outside of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana convenience store when an anonymous caller told the police a Black man in a red shirt, who was selling CDs, threatened the caller with a gun.
A 48-second cell phone video captured what happened next. Police show up at the Triple S Food Mart at around 12:35 a.m. on Tuesday morning and tackle Sterling against the hood of a car before throwing him down onto the pavement.
After he was on the ground, one of the officers cried out, saying “He’s got a gun.”
According to the New York Daily News, the other cop said, “You f*cking move, I swear to God.” The two officers draw their weapons. The person recording the video turns the camera away as five shots ring out.
A coroner later determined that two of the shots hit Sterling in the chest and back.
The Daily News reports that the owner of the convenience store, Abdullah Muflahi, who was a friend of Sterling’s for the past six years, said he he had no knowledge of an argument taking place outside of his store that led to the 911 call. He also said that after Sterling had been shot, that’s when he saw officers pull the gun from Sterling’s pocket. He acknowledged that Sterling had purchased the gun for protection after learning that other people selling music in the area had been robbed.
Muflahi told the Daily News, “He was screaming, ‘What did I do?’ ‘What’s going on?’”
Muflahi said the police confiscated the convenience store footage which would have shown ever second of the incidents that led to Sterling’s death.
“His hand was not in his pocket, nor did he have a gun in his hand. While he was laying there dying, the cop went inside his pocket to pull the gun out.”
At this time, police have yet to confirm whether or not Sterling was in possession of a gun.
A spokesman for the Baton Rouge police, Cpl. L’Jean McKneely told The Advocate, a Baton Rouge newspaper that while the officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the incident, the recording devices came loose and were dangling from their chests during the incident. But at least one dash cam caught the killing on tape.
The two officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in shootings.
RIP Alton Sterling.