Two black men in their 30’s were killed by police officers less than two days apart, both were armed but according to witnesses and video footage neither threatened the officers prior to being shot. Videos for both incidents surfaced, one shortly after the shooting and the other was posted on Facebook live by the victim’s significant other.
First to be killed by bullets discharged from a police officer’s service weapon was 37-year-old Alton Sterling. Sterling was at the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge Louisiana at around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday. According to witnesses a homeless man made contact with Sterling and despite him asking him to leave the man would not. Sterling showed the man his gun in an attempt to make the man leave. It is believed that the homeless man made the 911 call stating that Sterling had a gun.
When police arrived they tackled Sterling down to the ground. In the video footage, it can be seen that both officers were over him and appeared to have control over him. While the camera panned away from the ruckus someone yelled, “Get on the ground!” followed by the sound several shots fired. When the camera went back to Sterling the chest area of his shirt was bloodstained by the apparently from the wounds sustained by the shots fired by the officer’s service weapon. Sterling was the father of five children and did have a non-violent criminal history. He was living at a homeless shelter and sold DVD’s and CD’s in front of the liquor store to make a living.
It is unknown what led to the shooting but it appears as though the weapon remained in Sterling’s pocket throughout the incident. Authorities said that Sterling was armed with an unlicensed weapon.
On the night of Wednesday, July 6th Philando Castile,32 was in his vehicle with his fiancee and her 4-year-old daughter. According to the fiancee of Castile, the trio was coming home from purchasing groceries when they were stopped by a St. Anthony Minnesota police officer for a broken tail light. The video was streamed live on Facebook as Castile died after being shot by a police officer. Diamond Reynolds, his fiancee said they were asked to put their hands up but then he was asked for his license and registration. She said that Castile then told the officer he was legally carrying a weapon and as he reached for the requested identification he was shot multiple times.
Castile, a long-time school district employee would be turning 33-years-old on July 16th. It is unclear what led to the shooting. All involved officers from both incidents have been put on paid administrative leave.
President Barack Obama reacted on Thursday, July 7th saying that it is clear that the shootings that killed these men were not isolated incidents. “All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota,” said President Obama. “We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss.”
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