Overnight, cellular phone video of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana officer shooting and killing Alton Sterling went viral. Sterling, who was black, was on the ground when he was shot several times in the back and chest. Protests have started in Baton Rouge and the outrage is palpable all over social media.
Media reports are still coming in, and they are already bringing upsetting, if somewhat predictable, news:
Officers likely had not been interviewed by investigators, as the agency typically gives its lawmen 24 hours before questioning them after this type of incident, he said.
“We give officers normally a day or so to go home and think about it” before being interviewed, [BRPD spokesman Cpl. L’Jean] McKneely said. He said being part of a shooting is a stressful situation that can produce “tunnel vision” for the officers involved and might not lead to the best information.
These “cooling off” periods are common in many departments, and sometimes mandated by legislation known as Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights. People who are not officers who shoot others, whether in cold blood or self-defense, are not automatically given such grace periods before answering questions. At a time when police need the community’s trust and cooperation most, such double standards can aggravate community tensions, making situations worse after tragic events.
But there is more:
Both officers at the store were wearing body cameras and cars had dash cameras, McKneely said. Muflahi said police also took surveillance footage from his store and seized his entire video system.
McKneely said both body cameras came loose and dangled from the officers’ uniforms during the incident.
Hopefully, the video from all available sources can supplement the cell phone footage to make clear what prompted the officer to shoot what appeared to be a prone man.
We will keep an eye on this case as the story develops.