The federal decision in the Alton Sterling police shooting case could be imminent, according to several sources close to the initial investigation.
Former Baton Rouge metro councilman John Delgado says multiple people close to the situation have told him the decision will be announced “on or before next Tuesday.” Delgado is currently a lobbyist for the Baton Rouge Union of Police and stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of that organization.
Speculation about when the decision might come has swirled for months, with many initially expecting a decision before the end of the Obama administration in January. It is quite possible the current speculation could be off base.
Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola says his department is preparing.
“We have not been formally informed, we’re just working off the same rumors everyone else is hearing,” he said. “We have had meetings and will continue to meet to prepare for the decision.”
Sterling, 37, was shot by a Baton Rouge police officer last July after two officers were called to a convenience store to look into a report that a man with a gun had just threatened another man outside the store.
The officers and Sterling struggled and at one point all three were on the ground when shots were fired by one of the officers. At least one of several pieces of footage that captured portions of the shooting appears to show an officer remove a gun from Sterling’s pocket after he was shot.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been reviewing the case to decide whether the two officers on the scene violated Sterling’s civil rights. Proving that, legal scholars say, is often difficult because prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers intended to violate Sterling’s constitutional rights.
A DOJ spokesperson this week declined comment on the speculation of an imminent decision, saying they do not comment on pending cases.
After the federal decision is handed down, the case will be handed over to the Louisiana Attorney General’s office to investigative any potential state criminal charges. One example of a state charge that could be considered is manslaughter. Any such decision on the state level is likely many months away since the Louisiana Attorney General’s office says it will not even get any evidence in the case from the federal government until the federal probe is complete.
The Sterling shooting led to several weeks of demonstrations in Baton Rouge in which more than a hundred people were arrested, including many from out of state.
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