Attorney General: No state charges to be filed in Alton Sterling’s death

FILE - In this file image made from video, taken July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling is held by two Baton Rouge police officers, with one holding a hand gun, outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La. Moments later, one of the officers shot and killed Sterling. The criminal investigation of Alton Sterling’s fatal shooting has lasted more than a year-and-a-half, and there’s no clear end in sight. A federal investigation of the shooting lasted nearly 10 months before the Justice Department ruled out federal charges against the officers. More than eight months have passed since Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office inherited the case to decide if any state charges are warranted. (Arthur Reed via AP, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. — No charges will be filed against two police officers in the July 2016 shooting death of Alton Sterling, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Tuesday.

“This decision was not taken lightly. We came to this conclusion after countless hours of reviewing the evidence,” Landry said.

The officers’ actions were “well-founded and reasonable,” Landry said.

According to CBS affiliate WAFB, the officers were trying to make “a lawful arrest” at the time. Furthermore, drugs were found in Sterling’s system and it could have contributed to his noncompliance with officers.

The announcement means state charges will not be filed. An internal investigation by the Baton Rouge Police Department is ongoing, WAFB said. Disciplinary action could be taken against both officers.

The news comes 10 months after federal prosecutors determined they wouldn’t file civil rights charges against two police officers in the case.

Officials met with Sterling’s relatives Tuesday morning to tell them of the decision.

Outrage over Sterling’s death led to renewed “Black Lives Matter” protests across the nation that year.

Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by police outside a convenience store in July 2016. Cell phone video showed Sterling, a black man, pinned to the ground by the white Baton Rouge police officers before he was shot; police said Sterling was shot because he was reaching for a gun.

The officers were responding to a call about a man with a gun. The call was from a homeless man who said that after he approached Sterling for money, Sterling showed him the weapon.

In May 2017, federal prosecutors found there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant civil rights charges against Officers Blane Salamoni, who shot Sterling, and Howie Lake II.

The feds determined the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances — including that the two used several less-than-lethal techniques before using force; that Sterling struggled with the officers and failed to follow orders; and that video evidence couldn’t prove or disprove Salamoni’s assertion that Sterling was reaching for a gun.

Despite the federal findings, Sterling’s five children filed a wrongful death lawsuit last summer, alleging their father’s shooting violated his civil rights and fits a pattern of excessive force and racism within the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge where Sterling was shot, also sued Baton Rouge and its police department. Muflahi accused authorities of illegally taking him into custody and confiscating his security system without a warrant.

Sterling was shot on the ground

Sterling was known as the “CD man,” who sold CDs and DVDs outside the convenience store where he was shot, according to local media.

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

The Department of Justice said last spring that Salamoni put a gun to Stering’s head when Sterling refused the officers’ order to put his hands on the hood of a car. Sterling complied then but eventually he took his hands off the hood, the Justice Department said.

Lake used a Taser on Sterling, and both officers tackled him to the ground, DOJ said.

At one point, videos show, someone shouts, “He’s got a gun!” In one video, an officer draws something from his waistband and points it at Sterling. As the camera turns away, more yelling ensues, followed by loud bangs.

Afterward, the camera captures Sterling with a large bloodstain on his chest as an officer on the ground next to him keeps his gun pointed at him.

As Sterling lies fatally wounded, the other officer removes something from Sterling’s right pocket.