Baton Rouge- Today, Attorney General Jeff Landry announced the decision whether or not the state would charge officers Howie Lake and Blane Salamoni for the killing of Alton Sterling. Who would have thought that July 5, 2016, would bring such a black cloud over the city of Baton Rouge? I can remember this day like it happened yesterday. The nation was already experiencing a heavy dose of white police officers killing black men, and now another shooting has occurred in our backyard.
Within hours after the shooting, the killing of Alton Sterling made national news; community activist and elected officials began to demand the footage from the officer’s body cameras. At that time, former Police Chief Carl Dabadie told the community that both body cameras fell off during the confrontation and that there wasn’t enough clear footage to see what exactly happen. Many people began to speculate if the Police Department was trying to cover up a homicide that was committed on a defenseless man.
The following day, July 6, 2016, the first cell phone footage was released to the public that showed what appeared to be Alton Sterling being killed by police. Protesters from all over the state gathered in solidarity demanding transparency and justice. Protesters first assembled in the streets of North Baton Rouge and not one single police officer told them to get out of the street. Baton Rouge police decided to keep their distance so that the community could quietly release their frustration peacefully. When days passed, and protesters did not see any results from their demands to charge the police officers for murder, protesters took the streets in front of the Baton Rouge Police Department. At that time is when police officers prepared for the worst. Officers started wearing heavy militarize riot gear and gas masks to intimidate protesters from getting into the streets on Airline Hwy. What I wanted to know was how could protesters hold up traffic on North Foster (majority black community), but couldn’t hold up traffic on Goodwood (majority white community), both streets were stopping traffic. Notice I said, Goodwood, not Airline Hwy, I am fully aware that it is against the law to block a state highway. I guess Baton Rouge police didn’t get the memo when protesters blocked Interstate 35W in Minneapolis for several hours as they protested law enforcement’s treatment of minorities.
How can Baton Rouge heal if we won’t acknowledge the racial division within our city? Many people would ask how is this a racial issue; the answer is simple, look at the bigotry comments under our local news media articles.
So where are we NOW!!!
Today, the officers were not charged with the killing of Alton Sterling. The Attorney General took 630 days to determine if these officers were guilty or not. This was an unusually lengthy case compared to similar cases around the country. People in this community wanted JUSTICE, and many people were robbed of that. The only criticism that I have is why to allow one person (Jeff Landry) to make this decision.
This case was not done with integrity or transparency!
- They didn’t take it to a grand jury.
- They did not re-interview any of the witnesses.
- The report was ultimately biased, every statement that was read was in favor of the police officers.
- The Attorney Generals findings were solely based on the decision from the federal government.
- The audio that recorded Salamoni “initially” walking up to Alton saying that “I’ll shoot you in the f****** head was never brought up.
This whole case was bizarre from the beginning to the end, because in standard practices, once the District Attorney recused themselves from the case then usually, it would go to the State Department but not in this case. It’s unusual that the Department of Justice got a hold of this case before the Attorney General Office. It usually goes through the state process first and then if the case goes through a trial and find the officers not guilty or the people are merely dissatisfied with the state’s findings, then at that point, the Federal Government could come in and review for civil rights violations. Somebody decided to do this wrong!! WHO??? This case was off-track procedurally from the beginning. Why wasn’t this case sent to another District Attorney’s Office? Statistically, very few cases conducted by the Department of Justice results in a civil rights indictment.
So, If this was a National case, why not have transparency?!
The Sterling family was robbed of a trial! The Attorney General did not have the decency to bring it to the grand jury to determine if there was enough evidence to conduct a trial. He essentially acted as GOD! If prosecutors had brought all their findings to the grand jury, more than one side of the story would have been told; the defense would have been able to cross-examine their excessive force witnesses and look at the video and question the footage. At that time the Attorney General would have described what the standards were for justifiable homicide.
If this case was brought before a grand jury and all the state procedures were followed correctly, then perhaps the community would feel better towards the decision.
The bottom line was this case was too hot for Attorney General Jeff Landry to handle!! Politics have no place in our judicial system!!
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