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What we know about the Alton Sterling shooting and his life

Another police shooting has spurred a civil rights investigation by the Justice Department. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Alton Sterling was shot by an officer responding to a disturbance call. A cellphone video led many to ask whether the shooting was justified. Judy Woodruff gets an update on the shooting and Sterling’s life from Kevin Litten of The Times-Picayune.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into another police shooting, this time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Yesterday, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was confronted and shot by an officer responding to a disturbance call. The city's police chief said Sterling had a gun at the time.

    But a cell phone video that caught part of the altercation and was widely viewed on social media led many to ask whether the shooting was justified.

    Here is some of what was seen. And a warning: The video is graphic.

    At a press conference today, the mother of one of Alton Sterling's children spoke of his death.

  • QUINYETTA MCMILLON:

    It will not go unnoticed, especially for the future. I, for one, will not rest or not allow him to be swept in the dirt.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The two officers involved in the incident are now on administrative leave. Louisiana's Governor John Bel Edwards called the video disturbing and said he has a very serious concern.

    Kevin Litten is covering the story for The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    Kevin Litten, tell us exactly what is known about what happened to Alton Sterling early Tuesday morning.

  • KEVIN LITTEN, The Times-Picayune:

    Hi, Judy.

    So what we know now is that Alton Brown — or — I'm sorry — Alton Sterling was in a parking lot of a convenience store in North Baton Rouge. It's a well-traveled area both night and day, and someone called the police and said that someone was threatening someone in that parking lot with a gun.

    When police responded, they made contact with Mr. Sterling and an altercation ensued. From what you can see on the video, they apparently had Mr. Sterling on the ground. And during that altercation on the ground, shots were fired at Mr. Sterling, and he died very soon after of his injuries.

    What's unclear right now is whether or not Mr. Sterling actually did have a gun. There was a witness report that said that police removed the gun from him, but at a press conference later today, the police wouldn't confirm whether he had a weapon. So I believe it's going to be a key part of the investigation that the FBI is looking at.

    The other thing we learned today is that there's some questionable video from the body cameras that the police had. There is questions about whether or not it's actually going to be able to be used. Apparently, both officers lost the body cam or it fell off during that altercation, but we obviously had the video that you just showed, and that is what is really driving much of the anger in this city.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And just quickly, you have done some reporting about Alton Sterling, his life, who he was?

  • KEVIN LITTEN:

    Yes, I just got back from meeting with someone who runs a transitional housing complex that's for — many times, for offenders that are being released from prison or trying to get back on their feet.

    So my understanding is Mr. Sterling was a sex offender. He had been released for about six months. But he really was on the right track. The person that I spoke to said Mr. Sterling was one of the good ones and never had issues with him, rent was always on time, loved to cook for the men that he lived with. Red beans and rice was his favorite dish to cook.

    And he was spending time with his children. That was really, it sounded, Brooke, to me, what he was up to in the six months that he had been released. He was working a part-time job as a cook. He was selling these C.D.s sort of as a little side entrepreneurial gig. And in the other time that he had, he was trying to see his kids.

    And as you can see from the emotional reaction from his son in that heartbreaking press conference today, there was certainly a closeness that he was able to have with his children. And I believe he wanted to stay on the right track to continue to be a part of their lives.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right, Kevin Litten with The New Orleans Times-Picayune, we thank you.

  • KEVIN LITTEN:

    Thank you.

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