We now know the story of the officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling on videotape last week. The Advocate obtained the search warrant filed for the video equipment at the surveillance store where Sterling was killed. As a part of the warrant, police described their version of what happened in the Sterling confrontation.
Police officers saw the butt of a handgun in Alton Sterling’s front pocket and observed him reaching for the weapon before opening fire, according to a Baton Rouge police search warrant filed Monday.
Sterling refused initial orders from the two officers, since identified as Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, to place his hands on the hood of a car during the fatal confrontation last Tuesday outside the Triple S Food Mart on North Foster Drive, where Sterling had been selling CDs, according to the affidavit that was filed along with a search warrant for the surveillance video equipment from the store.
The officers used Tasers on Sterling, 37, and “were attempting to subdue the subject” when they “observed the butt of a gun in (Sterling)’s front pants pocket,” the affidavit says.
When Sterling “attempted to reach for the gun from his pocket, the officers fired their police issued duty weapon at the subject to stop the threat,” the affidavit says. “The subject was shot multiple times and did not survive his injuries.”
Is not following police orders a shooting offense? No. Having a gun on you is not a shooting offense either, even if you’re a convicted felon. Now is reaching for a gun while police are trying to subdue you a shooting offense? Most reasonable people would say yes.
It’s going to come down to if prosecutors think the police had Sterling subdued or not. Even so, it’s important to remember that even police officers have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt like everyone else.
Why were the police called out to the store in the first place? The search warrant tells us that as well:
The warrant says that the officers went to the location because they had a complaint about a man who “threatened someone with a gun,” noting the person the man they encountered fit the description of that person. They initially asked him to put his hands on the hood of a vehicle, the narrative states.
The surveillance video from the convenience store is going to be very interesting when it is made public.
UPDATE: I was sent this on Facebook by an out of state cop who does not want to identified. Here’s how an investigation into the shooting would look like:
In this piece you write:
“It’s going to come down to if prosecutors think the police had Sterling subdued or not. Even so, it’s important to remember that even police officers have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt like everyone else.”
The prosecutor will weigh the evidence of this case and determine a few things:
1) were the officers conducting a lawful duty while discharging their duties at this scene (indemnification number 1)
2) what was the nature of the call that they were at and is it reasonable to think that given the facts provided to the officer at the time of the call, without benefit of hindsight, was it objectively reasonable for them to apply force to Alton Sterling. (Indemnification number 2)
3) was there any unlawful discharge of duties under color of authority. (Indemnification number 3)
4) were officers within departmental policy for the use of force, particularly lethal force.
(Indemnification number 4)
While I think subduing the subject is a factor, I think you’re overestimating and oversimplifying in your analysis. There will be much more to think about in regards to whether or not the application of lethal force was justified.