BATON ROUGE, La., (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said yesterday it would investigate the killing of a black man pinned to the ground and shot in the chest by two white police officers outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Captured on at least two videos, graphic images of the shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, early Tuesday morning stirred protests and social media outcry over the latest case of alleged police brutality against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York.
One of the two officers shot Sterling five times at close range, and the other removed something from Sterling’s pants pocket as he was dying, according to images on a video recorded by Abdullah Muflahi, owner of the Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was killed in the parking lot.
“I’m heartbroken. It’s outrageous. It’s crazy,” said Muflahi, who considered Sterling a friend and allowed him to sell CDs outside his store. He provided a copy of the video to Reuters and said police took a gun from Sterling’s pocket.
Several hundred people gathered on Wednesday for a prayer vigil near the spot where Sterling was fatally shot, with speakers calling for peaceful protests, justice and unity in the face of “excessive force” by police against black residents.
“If we stand divided, we are already defeated,” Bishop Gregory Cooper of Baton Rouge told the crowd, which included families with children and filled the store’s parking lot as well as nearby streets. Police stayed on the fringes of the gathering.