The US Department of Justice began a civil rights investigation into Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of a black man in the state of Louisiana.The video of Sterling’s death sparked outrage in Baton Rouge, with hundreds protesting on Tuesday night and demonstrations continuing on Wednesday.
A police spokesman said at a press conference in state capital Baton Rouge on Wednesday that while the Justice Department will investigate potential civil rights violations, Louisiana state police will supplement the investigation to determine if any criminal actions took place.
The Justice Department will collect all available facts and evidence and conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in the statement.
Officers Blane Salamoni, a four-year veteran in Baton Rouge, and Howie Lake II, a three-year veteran, were the two officers seen in a video circulated on social media showing one angle of the the fatal shooting of the 37-year-old Alton Sterling.
The two officers pinned Sterling to the ground, someone yelled, “He’s got a gun, gun” and gunfire erupted moments later.
Sterling was reportedly selling homemade CDs and DVDs outside a store in the early hours of Tuesday morning when the two police officers arrived at the scene, responding to an anonymous 911 call about a man in a red shirt threatening people with a gun.
The store’s owner Abdul Muflahi told local press that the two officers showed up, and an altercation broke out between the two officers and Sterling. The first officer used a stun gun on Sterling and the second officer tackled him to the ground.
As Sterling tried to get the second officer off him, the first officer fired several shots, killing the black man instantly.
Dunham said that the two officers wore body cameras during the shooting incident, but both became detached during an altercation with the Sterling that preceded the shooting. Audio and video footage was still captured and will be turned over to federal investigators.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also said on Wednesday that he had “serious concerns” about the shooting incident.