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Alton Sterling shooting death: Reports suggest no federal charges

Alton Sterling's mugshot from the 2009 arrest (Source: EBRSO)

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Justice Department might close its investigation into the police shooting death of Alton Sterling without pursuing charges, according to media reports.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that multiple sources told them the US Justice Department, which led the investigation into the 2016 shooting of Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will not seek charges against the officers.

CNN has not independently confirmed the Post and Times reports.

The Justice Department has not communicated to anyone a decision regarding the officers involved in the case, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN. When there is a decision, the family will be notified first and then the Justice Department will hold a news conference, she said.

Two attorneys for the Sterling family and a family member told CNN on Tuesday evening they have not heard from the Justice Department on a decision in the case, in which two police officers were involved in the shooting while trying to detain Sterling outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5.

Sterling’s aunt said she has not heard from federal authorities.

“It’s not right. Lord have Mercy. Oh my God,” Sandra Sterling said by phone.

The shootings set off protests across Baton Rouge and beyond and became an important chapter in the national discussion of how police interact with minorities. The officers — Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II — were placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.

People began gathering outside the Triple S Food Mart on Tuesday after reports of a decision surfaced publicly.

Videos show shooting

The killing gripped the nation because two bystander videos, each less than a minute long, captured the struggle with officers.

The city of 238,000 reentered the spotlight July 17 when an ex-Marine from Missouri ambushed and killed three law enforcement officers.

Sterling was known as the “CD man,” a laid-back guy who sold CDs and DVDs in front of the convenience story on the west side of the city. The father of five was respected in the community, said Edmond Jordan, the family attorney.

“Alton was out there selling CDs, trying to make a living,” Jordan said. “He was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct.”

The videos

The first bystander video, filmed from inside a car, shows Sterling and Salamoni and Lake, who were answering a 911 report of a man with a gun, standing near a vehicle outside the convenience store.

The camera pans downward and a pop is heard. Someone yells, “Get on the ground!” Another pop, possibly from a Taser, rings out. The convenience store owner said officers twice deployed the devices before the shooting.

An officer rushes Sterling and pulls him to the ground. The other officer assists in restraining Sterling. Someone shouts, “He’s got a gun!”

An officer draws something from his waistband and points it at Sterling. More yelling ensues, followed by two loud bangs, then three more bangs.

The second video shows Sterling on the ground as one officer straddles him and another kneels to his left.

After the gunshots, the camera captures Sterling with a large bloodstain on his chest as an officer lying on the pavement aims his weapon.

As Sterling moves his left arm toward his face and then his chest, the other officer appears to remove something from Sterling’s right pocket. Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said Sterling was armed at the time, and a witness said the officer removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket.