Department of Justice not bringing charges against officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling

A memorial to Alton Sterling.
(Image credit: Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images)

As expected, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it will not bring civil rights charges against two white police officers who shot and killed a black man selling CDs outside of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store last summer.

"After an exhaustive, almost year-long investigation, all of the prosecutors and agents involved in this case have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to charge either officer with a federal crime in connection with this incident," Baton Rouge Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson said during a news conference. Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed July 5 following a scuffle with officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, who were put on paid administrative leave after the incident. The officers had been looking for a suspect who matched Sterling's description, police said, and after they tackled Sterling, he allegedly reached for a gun before officers opened fire. The incident was caught on video, and many who have seen the footage say it did not show Sterling reaching for a weapon. After the shooting, protesters marched for several days, with 150 arrested.

Several people with knowledge of the investigation told media outlets on Tuesday that the Justice Department had decided against filing civil rights charges. Federal prosecutors needed to prove officers "willfully" violated Sterling's civil rights, and the family was walked through how difficult this would have been, NBC News reports. "He's no longer here, but his voice still will be heard through us," Sterling's aunt, Sandra, said. "So stay behind us. Because we love Alton and we don't want this to end. Remember his name." Now, Louisiana is investigating the shooting for possible state criminal violations.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.