The family of Alton Sterling is railing against the decision made by Louisiana authorities not to charge the two police officers who fatally shot him in 2016, saying those officers have gotten away with murder.
“He was murdered by two white racist police officers. He was murdered like an animal,” Sterling’s aunt, Veda Washington-Abusaleh, told local reporters on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Sterling was shot outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge on July 5, 2016, after a resident said he had been threatened by a black man selling CDs.
Baton Rouge officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake responded to the scene, and said they believed Sterling was armed with a gun and was resisting arrest.
Police said they believed Sterling was trying to pull a loaded gun out of his pocket when Salamoni opened fire.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said at a press conference his office concluded that the officers “attempted to make a lawful arrest of Alton Sterling based upon probable cause.”
He said the officers, who had good reason to believe Sterling, 37, was armed, gave verbal instructions and tried non-lethal methods to subdue him, but he did not comply.
“There was never any criminal activity here. It was an unfortunate situation but it was a justified shooting,” John McLindon, an attorney for Salamoni, told The AP.
L. Chris Stewart, an attorney representing Sterling’s family, said they were disappointed by the decision.
“This case did not even go to a grand jury, which would have allowed the citizens of Baton Rouge to decide this. It takes courage and we just didn’t see that in this situation,” he told The AP.
Sterling’s death led to a series of protests across the nation. One protest that occurred two days later saw five law enforcement officers shot and killed by an African-American ex-serviceman in Dallas.
In June 2017, Sterling’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the city, alleging a history of excessive force and racism toward African Americans.
Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s son, Cameron Sterling, said on Tuesday that the ruling emphasized their point.
“We’re all out of tears,” McMillon told reporters. “We have nothing else in us to cry about now, because guess what, we all knew what it was, just like y’all knew what it was going to be.”
The family will draw on their faith to continue on, McMillon said.
“We may not get justice here on this Earth, but let me tell you something: When God comes, he’s going to come,” she said. “And we’re all going to know. Cause you know why? It may be just this day that Howard Lake say, ‘you know what, it’s time for me to be honest, it’s time for me to really tell what really happened.
“Alton can’t tell his story to you, nor to me. He’s gone, there’s no more coming back. No amount of money on this earth, on this world, that can give those kids back their father.”
Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said state prosecutors had followed the law in evaluating the case. The Baton Rouge Police Department should conduct a review to determine if disciplinary action should be taken, Edwards said.
“We owe this final review to the Baton Rouge community and the Sterling family,” he said in a statement.
Salamoni and Lake are on paid administrative leave.
“They took a human away,” McMillon said. “They took a father away. They took somebody away that did not deserve to be away. The way they killed them was in cold blood. You know it, I know it. Yes, the system has failed us. Yes, we are disappointed. But as a family we’re going to stay strong and we’re going to keep each other prayed up. The devil thought he won but he didn’t.”