Protests broke out Tuesday in the US state of Louisiana after police officers shot and killed a black man outside a Baton Rouge convenience store.
People protested throughout the day after Alton Sterling, 37, who was selling pirated CDs, was killed during a confrontation with the police. A video of the deadly encounter later circulated on social media.
Police officers had responded to the store around 12:35 am on Tuesday after an unknown caller reported that a man selling music CDs had threatened him with a gun, said Corporal L’Jean McKneely.
An altercation between Sterling and the two responding officers then ensued. One of the officers fatally shot Sterling in the altercation.
The two officers, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative leave under department policy, McKneely added.
Cellphone footage circulating on social media showed the deadly police encounter: In it, an officer yells at Sterling to get on the ground. Seconds later, the second officer tackles him. One officer holds down Sterling’s left arm, while his right arm is out of view.
At one point, an officer yells, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” He pulls his service weapon and fires at Sterling.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr William Clark has said that an autopsy has shown Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and the back.
The owner of the store, Abdul Muflahi, speaking to WAFB-TV, said that one officer used a taser on Sterling, and the other one tackled him. As Sterling struggled and fought to get the officer off him, the first officer shot him “four to six times.”
Muflahi also said that Sterling did not have a gun in his hand at the time but after the shooting, he saw the officers remove a gun from Sterling’s pocket.
Late on Tuesday, McKneely said that he could not confirm Muflahi’s description of the event or any other details of the investigation.
Congress man Cedric Richmond of Louisiana called for the US Department of Justice to investigate Sterling’s death.
“The video footage released today of the shooting of Alton Sterling by officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department was deeply troubling and has understandably evoked strong emotion and anger in our community,” Richmond said in a statement.
“I share in this anger and join the community in the pursuit of justice."
State Rep C Denise Marcelle, who was briefed by the police chief, told WAFB-TV that the officers were wearing body cameras, but they fell off during the struggle and did not capture the shooting.
After the incident, about 150 protesters took to the streets of Baton Rouge on Tuesday night chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.”
The protest continued into the late hours of the night and protesters said they would hold a rally outside city hall on Wednesday morning.
Mike Mcclanahan, Baton Rouge president of the NAACP, who was with the protesters for most of the evening, told the Advocate, “We’ve seen a video that’s disturbing and gruesome. We know that justice must be served.”