DAILY BEAST: Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was standing in the parking lot selling CDs as he had for years when two white cops arrived on Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning he was dead and protesters were in the city’s streets. Calls erupted from Congress and the NAACP for an independent investigation into the shooting, which the Justice Department announced within hours. Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake were reportedly responding to a 911 call about a man threatening someone with a gun before they arrived, but Muflahi said no one was waving a gun, certainly not Sterling.
A homeless man reportedly called 911 after Sterling showed him his gun after the man asked him for money, an official told CNN. A Baton Rouge police dispatcher then told officers a man matching Sterling’s description “pulled a gun” on the 911 caller, according WAFB-TV. The Daily Beast is publishing this video in its entirety—despite its graphic nature—because it shows what happened before, during, and after the killing of Sterling. A previous video only showed him being tackled and the first two gunshots.
[This] video does not appear to support the officer’s claim that Sterling’s gun represented an active threat: It appears to have been in a pocket and never reached his hand. Instead, the video shows Sterling pinned down, shot twice in the chest, and then shot four more times. “Fuck!” one cop yells into his radio. “10-4, 10-4… shots fired! Shots fired!” Sterling was still alive, the video capturing his left hand moving over a dark pool of blood filling the center of his red T-shirt. When paramedics arrived minutes later, Sterling was dead. MORE
NEW YORKER: If it is the case that Sterling did have a gun—eyewitnesses reported seeing a weapon near his body after he was shot, but it has not yet been verified that a weapon was in his possession at the time of the conflict—it would not be particularly noteworthy in Louisiana. Louisiana is an open-carry state but requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon. It also forbids people with criminal records, as Sterling had, from owning firearms. Yet this, more than anything else, highlights the ways in which the distinction between “legal” and “illegal” guns becomes nearly arbitrary.
A man with Sterling’s arrest record would have been all but locked out of the legitimate economy. Men with criminal records constitute a third of the unemployed males between ages twenty-five and fifty-four. Sterling earned his living the way untold numbers of men in such circumstances do: vending on the streets. His death immediately recalled that of Eric Garner, who sold loose cigarettes on the street in Staten Island and also died at the hands of police officers. These men are a familiar sight in black communities: They pop into the local barbershop hawking music and movies. They stand outside the subway station selling socks and pantyhose. On rainy days they are the convenient purveyors of cheap umbrellas. This is a pedestrian labor force populated by men for whom hustles have taken the place of jobs.
All informal economies carry the whiff of danger. A black man is thirteen times more likely to be murdered in this country than a white person; eighty-four per cent of the time it involves a firearm. But no amount of statistical palm-reading can foretell the risks borne by a black man with a criminal record who frequents poor neighborhoods and is known to conduct cash transactions. The gospel of the gun as a tool of self-protection is directed at middle-class whites, but it is most applicable to precisely the populations among whom they are most heavily prohibited—people who are poor and black. MORE