Death in Baton Rouge

Something is terribly wrong when the source of the truth had to be a private citizen's phone camera

The video taken by a witness is eloquent, accurate, disturbing. It shows an encounter between a man and two police officers: They drag him to the floor, immobilize him and put a gun to his chest. A shout is heard: “He’s got a gun!” The camera steps back, the frame goes to black.

Three, four shots are heard.

When the echo dissipates, the man, 37-year-old Alton Sterling, lies dead on the ground. He was selling CDs in front of a store. He was African-American and poor. The cops, white.

This happened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Someone had called the police to say that Sterling had threatened him with a firearm.

The Baton Rouge Police Department says that they want to know the truth. The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is investigating. The officers have been suspended.

Another death at the hands of the Police.

Maybe someone will decide that the officers did the right thing, that they acted in self-defense. The video shows quite the opposite. Witnesses say that the victim’s gun was not visible.

In any case, something is terribly wrong when 1,000 people were killed the police in 2015 and this year, so far, 504. Of the victims, 26% were black, a group that comprises 14% of the nation’s population. In Louisiana, 52% of the deceased were African-American, who are 32% of the state’s population.

Something is terribly wrong when the source of the truth had to be a private citizen’s phone camera. Had it not been filmed, that truth would have probably disappeared, buried under bureaucracy and excuses.

This time, it is worth noticing that the victim would not have been violating any laws by carrying a gun in public. On the contrary: Louisiana allows this, in agreement with the obsessive idea that citizens have an inalienable right to bear arms.

Then, why did the police kill this father of five?

One of two alternatives must be true: Either the officers killed him because, being African-American, they feared that Sterling was a dangerous criminal and his gun was a threat to their lives. Or because they understand that this nonsensical, unrealistic law puts their lives in danger instead of protecting the vulnerable. They sentenced Sterling to death for obeying the law and carried out the punishment.

Once again, a civilian caught a murder on video, social media divulged it, and the press put it in context and questioned authority: a coalition of outrage aiming to have the incident investigated and the perpetrators penalized.