On July 5, 2016 at around 12:35am a man known for selling CDs outside of the Triple S Mart in Baton Rouge, LA would unknowingly take his last breaths. This man was Alton Sterling and he was the first of two police shooting deaths that week.
Police were responding to a call about a man in a red shirt threatening individuals with a gun. It was later reported that a homeless man made the call. Alton Sterling was out front selling CD’s as he had done many times before when he was approached by the two police officers.
A graphic video was released showing Sterling tased, tackled to the ground, and pinned down by two officers. What is being said is unclear in the first video, but you can hear “He’s got a gun!” the cell phone footage pans away as we hear multiple shots plunging into the pinned man’s chest.
It is still unclear how Mr. Sterling obtained the weapon but it was reported that he carried it due to a string of thefts on local CD sellers. In the state of Louisiana, it is legal to carry a weapon without a permit so long as the carrier is over 18 and not a felon.
Warning: Graphic video. (Via NFS Youtube channel)
Triple S mart owner, Abdullah Muflahi, wasn’t aware of any confrontation in front of his store that lead to that fateful 911 call but he did say “Just five minutes before, he (Sterling) walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, calling each other names.”
A second video was released, this time taken by Muflahi, shows the same situation unfurling from a different angle. Again, the video is deeply disturbing.
Warning: Graphic video. (Via Instagram Police Youtube Channel)
Then there was the case of Philando Castile.
On July 6,2016 not even 24 hours after Sterling’s shooting, another unsettling video of a police encounter was released. The victim this time was a 32 year old nutrition services supervisor named Philando Castile. Sources say he was pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St.Paul for a malfunctioning tail light. Castile advised officers that he had a firearm and that he was just reaching for his wallet. His fiance cautioned officers that Castile was licensed to carry but her interjection came too late. Police fired four shots into Philando Castile. Aside from Castile’s fiance watching the situation in horror, her 4 year old child was also in the backseat.
Warning: Graphic video. (Via Mitchell Wiggs Youtube Channel)
While both of these incidences are still being investigated, the disconcerting parallels between these shootings have inspired many people to protest police brutality across the nation. Though these events have sparked outrage, the vast majority of these demonstrations are peaceful and many supporters want to work with law enforcement to come up with a solution.