Alton Sterling is the 558th person killed by police in 2016.
The hushed cries of two Black women echo inside the car where a witness recorded the execution of 37-year old Alton Sterling in the early morning hours of July 5th. Smith was selling music CD’s outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, LA. before being confronted by police after an anonymous caller notified authorities that Sterling had a gun. After being physically detained by two officers, Sterling was shot and killed.
We’ve watched in horror as Eric Garner was choked out by officers of the NYPD, we were befuddled as unarmed Walter Scott was shot in the back as he fled an armed officer — who later tried to plant a taser as he lay mortally wounded. The image of Mike Brown bleeding out on a Ferguson street will be forever burned into our consciousness, but the execution-style murder of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police has taken me to an inexplicable place, deeper than the last. The helplessness and raw emotion of two Black women as they witness police approach, subdue and eventually shoot Sterling is an inexplicable anguish to hear.
Sterling, a father of three was allowed to sell music outside of the establishment according to the owner Abdullah Muflahi. Police received a call from anonymous called stating a man fitting Sterling’s description threatened him with a gun. The store owner doesn’t recall any altercation involving Sterling that would lead to a 911 call. In the video, Sterling can be heard asking police, “What did I do?”
After the shooting police removed a gun from Sterling’s pocket, but they have not yet confirmed if Sterling was in possession of a gun. Muflahi — who stood just feet away from the shooting told The Advocate that Sterling was not holding a weapon and his hands weren’t close to his pockets during the altercation.
Sterling appeared to die quickly, Muflahi said. Just after the killing, the officer who fired the bullets cursed, and both officers seemed like they were “freaking out,” Muflahi said.
The store owner said he heard one of the officers say, “Just leave him.”
Body cameras worn by the officers became dislodged during their struggle with Sterling, but there is footage from the dash camera and at least one surveillance camera. As of Tuesday, the two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. Initial autopsy reports have ruled Sterling’s death a homicide after suffering multiple gunshot wounds to the back and chest.
Protesters of the shooting assembled peacefully near the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was killed on Tuesday night.
Now we will see the layers of Alton Sterling’s life begin to be unraveled by those eager to justify his murder. They’ll ask why was Sterling carrying a gun in an open-carry state that forbids former felons to carry. Could it be because he was just by chance protecting himself from being a victim — after all he was selling merchandise. They’ll dig into his court records — which date back to 1996 and somehow blend this all in with what happened on the early morning of July 5th. They’ll rip the bubble wrap off Louisiana’s “Blue Lives Matters Law” which can bring hate crimes against anyone who attacks an EMT worker, fireman or police officer and somehow attach this to Sterling’s bullet-riddled corpse.
Remember three things as you live your life in this country:
- We live in a society founded and fully operational on the basis of white supremacy.
- White privilege will continue to manifest itself.
- A Black man isn’t dead until you kill him twice.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, we’ll witness the second death of Alton Sterling.