Questions about Alton Sterling’s Criminal Record and Death Answered

Alton Sterling was shot to death by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with many outsiders blaming Sterling’s criminal record. Here is the truth about Alton Sterling’s criminal record and why it didn’t matter.

Many outlets reported that Sterling was a gang member with a horrible rap sheet. A number of places use this point as a way to justify his shooting at the hands of police. Here are the facts on what was part of his criminal record and what wasn’t.

Why Were Police Called?

On July 5, 2016, Baton Rouge police were called to a convenience store due to a complaint about a man with a gun. Officers Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni approached Sterling, who resisted and was tased several times. He was first placed on the hood of a car, then on the ground.

While Sterling was on the ground, one officer knelt on his chest while the other was on his thigh. Both attempted to gain control of his hands. What happened next is truly only known to the two officers and the victim. The officers allege that Sterling again tried to move his right hand to his pocket, and every effort to restrain him was starting to fail.

As such, one of the officers shot Sterling as he lay on the ground. While a gun was retrieved from Sterling’s body, he didn’t wave it or pull it out on the attending police officers. Sterling died where he lay from multiple gunshot wounds.

The United States Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into the incident. But on May 2, 2017, it was announced that no charges would be filed against Lake and Salamoni. However, the Louisiana State Attorney then said the matter was not investigated enough, and that the state would conduct its own investigation.

As of yesterday (March 27), the state of Louisiana decided not to pursue formal charges against the two officers. They may be subject to further disciplinary measures from the police department but currently, there is little likelihood of criminal charges being filed.

Was He a Sex Offender? 

Alton Sterling’s criminal record is extensive. There is no denying that he did have a criminal record —and an extensive one at that. The crimes that he was convicted of included numerous arrests for criminal damage to property, aggravated battery, unauthorized entry, and domestic abuse battery, marijuana possession, and for carrying an illegal weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.

Sterling was also a convicted sex offender after being sentenced for “carnal knowledge of a juvenile” in 2000. However, while numerous outlets reported the “fact” that Sterling was a member of the Bloods gang, there is absolutely no proof that he was gang affiliated. Most of Sterling’s crimes were very much individual efforts.

While he wasn’t a gang member, things may seem very cut and dry in regards to the shooting. Sterling had a lengthy criminal record that included violence. Once again, things are not always straightforward.

Did Sterling Have a Gun on Him at the Time of Shooting?

Sterling was a man with a lengthy criminal record that included violence. The police officers called in on him were being very careful when dealing with him, especially since the call made about Sterling included the idea that he had a gun. It was a situation where police had the right to be over cautious and unfortunately, it ended rather badly. Except for one issue.

The officers who were confronting Sterling had no idea who he was. They responded to the call and yes, it was thought that he may have been armed, but no part of Sterling’s criminal record was known to the officers involved in the shooting until after he was shot. Police did not know he was convicted of anything, not violent crimes, not traffic issues. All of the attending officers knew was that Sterling may have had a gun on him.

Were There Drugs in His System?

There is nothing cut and dry about what happened the day Alton Sterling was shot by police. Yes, he had a criminal record, but the attending officers did not know about it. As was found out later, Sterling had a gun on him, and a number of drugs in his system which may have led to part of his resistance to the officers in question.

At the same time, the two officers involved in the shooting, Lake and Salamoni, were investigated for using excessive force in past arrests. But, they were both cleared in those cases, and both officers have also earned commendations for previous actions on the force.

What is certain, is that this case will be debated for years to come.