The 15-year-old son of Alton Sterling, a black man who was shot and killed by white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, wept uncontrollably and cried "Daddy!" this morning as his mother spoke to reporters about the deadly confrontation, which was captured on video.
"He [her son Cameron Sterling] had to watch this, as this was put all over the outlets," Quinyetta McMillon said. "As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father."
Alton Sterling, 37, was killed early Tuesday in a shooting that was captured on cellphone video. In the video, two officers appear to struggle with Sterling and slam him to the ground.
One man seems to yell "gun." Then at least two shots are fired while the officers are close to Sterling.
Baton Rouge police said the incident began when uniformed officers responded to a disturbance call from someone who said a black man who was selling CDs threatened him with a gun.
Officers approached Sterling in the parking lot of the convenience store, and "an altercation between Sterling and the officers ensued," police said. He was shot during the altercation and died at the scene, police said.
The coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish said Sterling died from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and back.
Officers Blane Salamoni, a four-year veteran, and Howie Lake II, a three-year veteran, were placed on leave in connection with Sterling's death, according to a Baton Rouge police news release. Both officers work in the Uniform Patrol Division.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said when the officers involved were interviewed by the case detectives, the two officers "indicated that they feared for their life and that deadly force was necessary and justified."
There is video from the police body cameras, which became dislodged during the incident but continued recording, as well as video from the in-car camera and the store, officials said today. It was not clear if that footage has been reviewed or what it showed.
"The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis," McMillon said, adding Alton Sterling "simply tried to earn a living to take care of his children."
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called for unity at a news conference this morning, as he announced that an investigation of the incident will be led by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
He said the Louisiana U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI will assist with the investigation, along with state police as needed.
"I have very serious concerns," the governor said. "The video is disturbing to say the least."
He also urged protesters to "remain peaceful."
"Another violent act ... is not the answer," he said.
Sterling was a registered sex offender, stemming from a 2000 conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile, his criminal records show. The circumstances of the case were not immediately clear, and he was released for the offense in October 2004.
As the video circulated online, public outrage exploded. Crowds gathered in Baton Rouge to protest, and #AltonSterling was the No. 1 hashtag in the United States on Twitter.
Edmond Jordan, an attorney for Sterling's family, said: "We're praying that the truth ultimately comes out from this," he said. "We think with an independent investigation, we can get down to that. And that's what the family wants."
Mike McClanahan, the local NAACP leader, called for the firing or resignation of Baton Rouge Chief of Police Carl Dabadie Jr.
But Dabadie Jr. said he is not resigning. He called Sterling's death a "horrible tragedy" and described the incident as an "altercation" that "resulted in the loss of his life."
Dabadie said Sterling was armed, but added, "There's a lot that we do not understand."
"I am demanding answers," he said.
Baton Rouge Police would not confirm whether a gun or other weapon was recovered and referred questions to the DOJ.
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