Baton Rouge Officers Say Alton Sterling Was Reaching For A Gun

Jul 12, 2016
Originally published on July 12, 2016 8:01 am
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A week after Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, authorities have released a police affidavit describing the event. Police say Sterling was reaching for a gun when officers shot him. NPR's Greg Allen reports the allegations are disputed by one of the witnesses to the shooting, the owner of the store where Sterling was killed.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The court released an affidavit in which the police described what happened in the moments before Sterling was fatally shot outside of the Triple S Mart, a Baton Rouge convenience store. Police say in the early morning hours of July 5, officers responded to a 911 call from a person who said an African-American man outside the store threatened him with a gun. The affidavit, prepared so that police could seize convenience store surveillance system, says when officers arrived, they told Sterling to place his hands on a nearby car. When he refused to do so, the officers - both of whom are white - used their tasers on him.

According to the document, it was then the officers saw the butt of a gun sticking out of Sterling's front pocket. When the subject attempted to reach for the gun from his pocket, the affidavit says, the officers fired their police-issued duty weapon at the subject to stop the threat. One of the videos that recorded the struggle and shooting was recorded by the owner of the Triple S Mart, Abdullah Muflahi.

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ABDULLAH MUFLAHI: By the time I walked out the store, they're already slamming him and tasering him.

ALLEN: Sterling was a regular outside of the store where he sold CDs. Muflahi said he'd never caused any problems. He disputes the affidavit's account that Sterling's gun was visible or that he ever reached for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MUFLAHI: I did not see any gun present until after they went inside his pocket to pull it out. The video shows clearly that it was never visible until they went into his pocket and pulled it out.

ALLEN: After the shooting, Muflahi says police took his cellphone and held him in a police car for four hours. He filed a lawsuit yesterday, charging police detained him unlawfully and seized his store's surveillance system before properly executing the search warrant. The lawsuit names, among others, the two officers involved in the shooting. Both have been placed on administrative leave.

Louisiana's governor has asked the Justice Department to conduct a federal investigation. What's not clear is what agency in Louisiana will conduct the state's investigation and determine whether any officers should face charges. Yesterday, the district attorney for East Baton Rouge, Hillar Moore, announced he's recusing himself and his office because he has a long acquaintance with the parents of one of the officers involved in the shooting.

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HILLAR MOORE: I don't like running from anything. This is one that I'm not running from. This is one that - this is justice by doing what I'm doing for all parties involved and for the community.

ALLEN: Moore is referring the case to Louisiana's attorney general, who will have to decide whether to conduct his own investigation or appoint a special prosecutor. Greg Allen, NPR News, Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.