Who Was Alton Sterling? Family And Friends Remember Him Fondly
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Louisiana police fatally shot a 37-year-old black man, Alton Sterling, in an altercation which was captured in horrific detail in a video now making the rounds online. The Baton Rouge man was confronted by two officers outside a convenience store after police received an anonymous tip that "a black male who was selling music CD's and wearing a red shirt" had threatened someone with a gun. Though details are still emerging, the killing of yet another black man by police has sparked outrage. So one must ask: Who was Alton Sterling? He certainly can't just become another name on the devastatingly long list of people of color shot by police.
Sterling was a father of five, and known to those in the community as the "CD man," according to a report by CNN. A frequent customer of Triple S Food Mart, he was a laidback guy who often sold music and movies outside of the store where he was shot. He also had recently been living in the Living Waters Outreach Ministries shelter, a transitional living center. Fellow residents told The Advocate that Sterling worked as a cook at the facility, and that "Whatever he cooked, he cooked enough for everybody." Another resident mentioned that Sterling would offer up the music he sold, free of charge, from time to time.
Friends and family gathered outside of the convenience store for a vigil and peaceful protest Tuesday night. The crowd grew to more than 200 people. Some chanted "Black lives matter!" and others left mementos along the storefront. Among those at the protest were local NAACP leader Michael McClanahan and State Representative C. Denise Marcelle (D-Baton Rouge), who sponsored the bill which now requires Baton Rouge officers wear body cameras..
In a statement, Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, Jr. said that the two officers involved in the shooting “have been placed on administrative leave per standard procedure," and that they will likely review the video of the altercation on Wednesday. In the video, one officer can be heard yelling, "He's got a gun!"
Family gathered at the protest said they doubted that claim. Sharida Sterling, the victim's cousin, said it was not characteristic of him to fight the police. "He would have never fought the police, he wouldn’t have pulled a gun, he would have been too scared," she said. "He wasn’t a bad person,” another resident, David Solomon, said of Sterling.
As new details emerge, it's important to remember both the man and the fact that black men experience gun violence at the hands of police at a disproportionately high rate. In order to properly honor Sterling, that must change.