UPDATE | Local attorney representing Alton Sterling's family in Louisiana
News 12 NBC 26 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, July 19, 2016
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- South Carolina attorney and lawmaker Justin Bamberg is back in town after spending the last week and a half in Baton Rouge representing the family of Alton Sterling.
Sterling was shot and killed by police outside a gas station in Baton Rouge. Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling's 15-year-old son Cameron, hired Bamberg and Atlanta attorney L. Chris Stewart.
Now, they're fighting for answers to some of the nation's most difficult questions.
"You ask yourself how can we stop this from happening? How can we stop officers from unjustly killing citizens? How can we stop citizens from retaliating when they reach a breaking point and start unjustly killing officers? And it's a very difficult question," Bamberg said.
Those are questions Bamberg says he ponders every day, most recently from Louisiana where he has spent much of his time with Sterling's 15-year-old son Cameron and 10-year-old son Quincy.
"It's hard to tell a 15-year-old boy that you now have to be a man when you know he may not be ready, but he has no choice," Bamberg said.
Even in the midst of tension, their message has been peace.
"We have to protect human life, and that's what all of this boils down to in my mind," Bamberg said. "I want to stop this from happening, and I believe it can be done. It's going to take time and effort."
As they fight through grief and injustice, a group of strangers, years apart, became family.
"They don't call me Attorney Bamberg. They call me Uncle Justin. They call Chris 'Papa Chris' because he's a little bit older than me," Bamberg said.
This journey led them to Washington D.C. where Cameron spoke face to face with President Barack Obama. His attorneys watched from the crowd.
"For him to be able to express to the United States President, the leader of the free world his thoughts, it was an amazing thing," Bamberg said.
Today, Bamberg is back at home in Orangeburg where he's not just a lawyer, he's an elected official. In those roles the responsibility doubles, but so do the questions.
"How do you cure the ailments of the human heart? You can't legislatively fix a disturbed heart. You can't," he said.
Bamberg says he will head back to Louisiana at some point, but for now he's back in town going through hundreds of pages of documents looking for patterns in the Baton Rouge Police Department.
He says the two officers shown in the video with Sterling had prior complaints.
He also emphasized law enforcement is not the enemy, but rather bad people are the enemy.
News 12 NBC 26 at 6 o'clock / Friday, July 8, 2016
BATON ROUGE, La. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A local attorney says it's his mission to give a man who died in a police-involved shooting a voice.
South Carolina attorney and state Rep. Justin Bamberg is representing Alton Sterling's family after Sterling was shot multiple times while pinned down outside a Baton Rouge gas station.
So, Bamberg bought a one-way ticket to Louisiana to stick up for the family of that man.
"It's easy to sit back and say it's not happening in my home area, so why do I care? I don't think that way. I think that South Carolina is one state of fifty and we are one country. When things occur in other places, those people need help, too," Bamberg said.
Bamberg now represents Sterling's oldest son Cameron, 15, and Cameron's mother Quinyetta McMillon.
People across the country have seen the video of police shooting sterling, but Bamberg says the video raises a number of issues.
"I don't believe it should have ever gotten to the point where he should have had to get shot, "Bamberg said. "From what we can tell, he wasn't saying anything to the officers. He gets tackled and all of a sudden he gets holes in his chest."
Bamberg says a country we need to look at the concept of escalating a situation versus deescalating, and in this case that starts with looking at records.
"We need to look at department practices and policies here in Baton Rouge. It's no secret they've had a history of problems," Bamberg said.
This isn't his first high-profile case of officer-related shootings. Bamberg and his co-counsel L. Chris Stewart handled the Walter Scott case, too. He says experience in that case will be a big help here.
"It's the prototype of how officer-involved incidents need to be handled in this country. There were no bricks thrown, no buildings set on fire. The justice system was allowed to run its course," he said.
At this point, Bamberg says they have not filed a lawsuit, but he says after negotiations, if they need to, they will.
The local attorney has an interesting perspective himself. He has many family members who are law enforcement. He says 99 percent of officers are good guys, but there is a trend we need to look at.
As for what happened in Dallas, Bamberg says violence only brings more violence, and it is not the answer.
Friday, July 8, 2016
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on fatal Louisiana police shooting (all times local):
The mother of one of Alton Sterling's children has denounced the killings of five police officers in Dallas during a protest over police shootings, including the one that killed Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday.
A statement issued Friday by Quinyetta McMillon's attorneys says "responding to violence with violence is not the answer."
'We wholeheartedly reject the reprehensible acts of violence that were perpetrated against members of the Dallas Police Department," the statement says. "Our hearts break for the families of the officers who were lost as they protected protesters and residents alike during a rally."
McMillon and her 15-year-old son, Cameron Sterling, appeared at a rally outside Baton Rouge's City Hall after 37-year-old Alton Sterling was fatally shot during a struggle with two police officers outside a convenience store. Sterling was black; both officers are white.
Demonstrators on Thursday night blocked the intersection in front of the Triple S Food Mart, where the shooting took place, asking drivers to honk their horns. Candle-lit balloons were released into the hot night air nearby in honor of Sterling and protesters waved signs and chanted slogans.
At a vigil earlier, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards thanked the people of Baton Rouge for their peaceful demonstrations and promised to focus on improving law enforcement.
Sterling, who was black, was shot and killed Tuesday by two white Baton Rouge police officers. The video-recorded killing sparked anger and protests among the black community. night, protesters trying to make sense of recent events gathered at the store where a black man was shot to death by police, emotions stoked by another fatal shooting in Minnesota.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
A spokesman for the Louisiana governor says the Justice Department will look into not only whether civil rights were violated in the death of Alton Sterling, but also whether there were any other violations of state and federal law.
A local attorney and South Carolina Representative, Justin Bamberg, is one of the attorneys in the case.
Richard Carbo said Thursday that the U.S. attorney's office in Baton Rouge is conducting "all aspects of the investigation."
Sterling was shot and killed early Tuesday during an altercation with two Baton Rouge police officers.
Carbo said if the U.S. attorney's office finds any violation of state laws and believes the officers should be charged with battery, assault or murder, it will refer that back to the local district attorney for prosecution.
He said: "They won't prosecute it, but they'll do the investigating side of it."
Police documents say four previous "use of force" complaints were lodged against the two white officers involved in the video-recorded shooting death of a black man. The officers were cleared in all of them.
The complaints included three black men and a black juvenile. The documents were released Thursday, a day after the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling.
The officers are Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II. Each had two prior "use of force" complaints.
Lake was involved in a police shooting in December 2014. He told detectives that he fired six or seven times when a black man refused to drop his gun, threatened to kill himself and pointed his revolver at officers. The man was wounded.
Lake also injured a combative black juvenile when they went to the ground during a struggle on April 19, 2014.
Salamoni's complaints involved punching a black man on Aug. 5, 2015, when he tried to grab the officer's stun gun.
He was also in a vehicle pursuit on June 17, 2015, in which a black man was injured when he crashed into a retaining wall.
Separately, Salamoni was issued a letter of caution for his involvement in a "preventable crash" on June 13, 2012.
The lawyers for the 15-year-old son of a Louisiana man shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge are blaming police for overly aggressive behavior.
At a news conference held just feet away from where Alton Sterling was killed outside a convenience store, Chris Stewart called the actions of a police officer who shot Sterling "heinous."
Stewart said the killing should never have happened and that the two officers should have "de-escalated" the situation instead of ratcheting it up.
Stewart is an Atlanta-based lawyer who has handled high-profile criminal cases before. He is representing Cameron Sterling and his mother, Quinyetta McMillon.
Stewart said it was likely the family would file a lawsuit, and added that he and his team would conduct a thorough analysis of police conduct in Baton Rouge.
President Barack Obama says the deadly shootings by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota are not isolated incidents. He says the U.S. has a "serious problem."
Obama is reacting to the pair of deaths in a Facebook post. He says all Americans should be "deeply troubled."
Obama says the incidents are symptoms of broader challenges in the criminal justice system. He says they reflect racial disparities that persist "year after year." Obama says that's created a lack of trust between law enforcement and their communities.
Obama says he's limited in what he can say about the cases. But he says he's "encouraged" the U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the Louisiana shooting.
Obama also says the U.S. must show respect and appreciation for police.
Community and faith-based leaders called on the Justice Department to broaden the scope of its investigation into the police killing of a 37-year-old black man.
The group called Together Baton Rouge said it was concerned that federal officials would only conduct a civil rights investigation without looking at whether state criminal laws were violated.
They gave examples of possible state charges to be investigated as battery, assault with a deadly weapon and negligent homicide.
State and local officials have said they have asked the Department of Justice to investigate and described them as the lead investigating agency.
The Justice Department has said it opened a civil rights investigation.
It's not clear if anyone is investigating possible violation of state law. Baton Rouge leaders said Wednesday the police department would do an internal investigation but said they would defer to the federal government for the main investigation.
The two white police officers who were involved in the shooting death of a black man had five complaints made against them and were cleared in all but one.
Records made available to the media on Thursday show that officer Blane Salamoni had three complaints made against him and was issued a letter of caution for his involvement in a "preventable crash" on June 13, 2012. The other two complaints involved use of force and a vehicle pursuit.
Lake had two use of force complaints and was exonerated in both. One included a police shooting in December 2014. Court documents show Lake told detectives that he fired six or seven times when a suspect refused to drop his gun, threatened to kill himself and pointed his revolver at officers. The man was wounded by police.
The other complaint happened Jan. 28, 2015.
The White House says President Barack Obama is "deeply disturbed" by police shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama is following the situations closely. But he tells reporters aboard Air Force One that the White House can't comment more specifically while the cases are being investigated.
In the Louisiana case, the federal Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of a black man by two white police officers.
Earnest noted the task force on policing that Obama established to improve ties and trust between police and law enforcement. He's urging local policing agencies to implement the Justice Department's recommendations.
Earnest spoke as Obama was flying to Poland for a NATO summit.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is attending a vigil and meeting with federal officials for an update on the investigation into the police shooting death of a Baton Rouge man.
The governor's office said Edwards will attend a 6 p.m. prayer vigil with community and faith leaders as well as other elected officials.
Earlier in the day, he's expected to meet with the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI and state police to get an update on the investigation into the shooting death of Alton Sterling.
Sterling, who is black, was shot and killed Tuesday by two white Baton Rouge police officers.
The video-recorded killing sparked anger and protests among the black community.
Police are investigating a Washington, D.C., firefighter after he made inflammatory posts on Facebook in response to the fatal police shooting of a 37-year-old black man in Louisiana.
WTTG-TV reports firefighter Norman Brooks made the posts Wednesday. In one, Brooks says "the citizens should take the law in their own hands and target racist cops."
Washington police learned of the posts and reported them to the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department. The posts have since been removed.
Brooks says he wrote the posts after learning of the death of Alton Sterling, who died after being shot by Baton Rouge police officers. He says he doesn't condone violence, but is tired of the lack of punishment for officers in police shootings.
Fire and EMS spokesman Doug Buchanan says Brooks has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of police and internal investigations.
Hundreds of mourners, friends and family members of a black man killed by police in Louisiana gathered at the scene of the shooting for a second night of protest, prayer and remembrance.
Many carried signs Wednesday night to express their anger and demand for justice, blocking streets near the Baton Rouge convenience store where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was killed.
Sandra Augustus, an aunt who helped raise Sterling after his mother died, spoke to the crowds with a broken voice, tearful. She said a second video that emerged Wednesday showing the moments before her nephew was shot left her angry.
Still, she pleaded for protesters and those gathered not to allow the vigil to be marred by violence.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards asked the U.S. Justice Department to lead a civil rights investigation into the killing.
(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.)
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on the police shooting of a Baton Rouge man that sparked protests (all times local):
Baton Rouge police say they have dash-cam video, body-cam video and store surveillance video of the police shooting death of a black man outside a convenience store.
Police said Wednesday that the audio and video will be turned over to the U.S. Justice Department, which is investigating the shooting of Alton Sterling.
Police Lt. Jonny Dunnam says the body-cam footage may not be as good as investigators hoped for because the cameras became dislodged during the altercation.
In a cellphone video taken by a community activist and posted online, two officers had Sterling pinned to the ground, and gunfire erupted moments after someone yelled, "He's got a gun! Gun!"
Dunnam noted that even though federal investigators are taking the lead, there will be an internal investigation and the officers will be entitled to hearings before any disciplinary actions are taken.
The Baton Rouge police chief has identified the officers involved in the fatal shooting of a black man.
Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said Wednesday that the officers are Blane Salamoni, a four-year member of the department and Howie Lake II, who has been on the force for three years.
Both officers have been placed on administrative while the U.S. Justice Department investigates the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling.
The chief didn't immediately release the races of the officers.
The Baton Rouge police chief says the black man who was fatally shot by police was armed but there are still questions about what happened.
Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. called the shooting a tragedy during a news conference and said: "Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand. And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers."
The police chief made his comments just an hour after the U.S. Justice Department said it had opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling. The chief says the probe will be transparent and independent.
The man who says he shot video of police fatally shooting a black man in Baton Rouge says he has been distributing the footage on social media as a service to the community.
Arthur Reed told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he and a team from his company, Stop the Killing Inc., made the video early Tuesday of 37-year-old Alton Sterling's death. Reed says his company shoots documentary-style videos about killings in Baton Rouge.
Reed says that on the day of Sterling's death, two teams of people drove to the scene, outside a convenience store, after hearing about the incident on police radio.
Reed described the scene: "They were already messing with him, and it escalated. After the shots, we left."
The shooting and video have fueled anger and protests.
The Justice Department says it will open a civil rights investigation into the videotaped police shooting of a black man outside a Baton Rouge convenience store.
Agency spokesman David Jacobs said Wednesday that the FBI's New Orleans Division and the U.S. attorney's office will participate in the investigation of the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling.
Police say they went to the store Tuesday after an anonymous caller said Sterling had threatened someone with a gun.
The Justice Department's investigation will look into whether the officers willfully violated Sterling's civil rights through the use of unreasonable or excessive force.
Similar investigations, which often take many months to resolve, were opened following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.
Federal investigators must meet a high legal burden to bring a civil rights prosecution, establishing that an officer knowingly used unreasonable force under the circumstances and did not simply make a mistake or use poor judgment. Many federal probes conclude without criminal charges.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says the cellphone video of the fatal police shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge is "disturbing to say the least."
Edwards said during a news conference on Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department would investigate the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling. He was killed early Tuesday outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs.
Police say they were called to the store Tuesday after an anonymous caller said Sterling had threatened someone with a gun.
The governor said he understood that protesters were angry over the shooting and called for calm.
Authorities have not released the race of the two officers, who have been placed on administrative leave.
In the wake of the fatal shooting of a black man by police at a Baton Rouge convenience store, a protester says people in the community need answers and justice.
Forty-five-year-old Sharon Alexander made the comments Wednesday, a day after 37-year-old Alton Sterling's death.
A pastor told the small crowd gathered that the protest would be peaceful. That's when Alexander chimed in, telling the pastor as her voice cracked: "We don't need peace. We need answers; we need justice."
Alexander was there with her daughter and three other relatives. She later said: "Our kids are not hearing our story. We sound like a broken record. It's time for a change."
A video that purported to show the killing of 37-year-old Alton Sterling further fueled public anger about the shooting early Tuesday, prompting hundreds to protest.
The head of the Baton Rouge NAACP in Louisiana has called for the police chief to be fired or resign in the wake of the fatal shooting of a black man during a confrontation at a convenience store.
Michael McClanahan said during a Wednesday morning news conference that Baton Rouge can't have a leader who "allows this type of action to take place."
A video that purported to show the killing of 37-year-old Alton Sterling further fueled public anger about the shooting early Tuesday, prompting hundreds to protest.
A vigil for Sterling is planned for Wednesday night.
Outside a Louisiana convenience store where a black Baton Rouge man was shot and killed by police, people have been paying their respects.
Authorities said 37-year-old Alton Sterling died Tuesday of multiple gunshot wounds after an altercation with police. His death and a subsequent video that purported to show the shooting sparked protests.
By dawn Wednesday, protesters and friends had created a makeshift memorial to Sterling on the white folding tables and fold out chair he had used to sell homemade music compilations on CD's.
Arthur Baines came by to pay his respects. He said Sterling didn't bother people and that he was just trying to make a living.
Mufleh Alatiyat, a 25-year old employee of the store, described Sterling as generous and said he often gave away CDs or petty cash or bought food or drink for people.
A Louisiana police officer shot and killed a man during a confrontation outside a Baton Rouge convenience store, authorities say, in a death that prompted a protest later in the day.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. William Clark says an autopsy shows 37-year-ol Alton Sterling died Tuesday of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.
Cpl. L'Jean McKneely said officers responded to the store about 12:35 a.m. Tuesday after an anonymous caller indicated a man selling music CDs and wearing a red shirt threatened him with a gun.
McKneely says two officers responded and had some type of altercation with the man and one officer fatally shot the suspect. He says both officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard department policy.
(Copyright 2016. The Associated Press.)