This Statistic About Alton Sterling Reveals A Heartbreaking Truth About Police Shootings
A Washington Post database called "Fatal Force" lists Alton Sterling as the 114th black man — and the 122nd black person — known to be killed by police in the first 186 days of 2016. According to videos of the incident, Sterling was 37 years old when two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pinned him down and shot him outside the Triple S Food Mart.
One of the officers yelled that Sterling had a gun, but according to Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the food mart, Sterling did not have a weapon in his hand, nor was his hand near his pocket. Muflahi told The Advocate that it was only after the shooting that one of the officers retrieved a handgun from Sterling's pocket. The store owner also said he had known Sterling for six years, and that he wasn't aware of what, if any, incident had led to a 911 call to his store, outside of which Sterling regularly sold CDs. The two officers involved in Sterling's death have been identified, and are currently on paid administrative leave.
The data from the "Fatal Force" database should remind us that institutional racism is still pervasive; this data only includes known and recorded police-involved shootings, so there could be other incidents that we are not aware of.
Two days after Independence Day, whose freedom are we really celebrating? The #BlackLivesMatter network is so necessary precisely because current systems in place simply do not value black lives, and Sterling's death is yet another example of that. Rather than sharing the videos of his death, we should celebrate his family and his life. He is not just the 114th black man to be killed by police this year; he was a father, a husband, and a human being. Cameron Sterling, Alton Sterling's 15-year-old son, reminded us of this when he broke down crying at a press conference at which his mother, Quinyetta McMillan, was speaking.
"The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children, who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis," McMillan said. "As a mother I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father."
Protests have broken out in Baton Rouge and in other parts of the country in response to Sterling's death. The facts from the Post's "Fatal Force" database illustrate the disturbing and sad reality that unjust murders like that of Sterling happen all too frequently.