NAACP: Speed up Alton Sterling investigation

WASHINGTON — The head of the NAACP in Louisiana is urging federal officials to update their progress investigating the shooting death of Alton Sterling by a police officer in Baton Rouge more than three months ago.

“If we haven’t seen some response by the end of this month, you’ll probably see people becoming concerned about the slowness of the investigation," Ernest Johnson said Friday.

Sterling, a black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer July 5. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who represents parts of Baton Rouge, called on the Justice Department to launch an investigation.

Walt Green, U.S. attorney for Louisiana's Middle District, released a statement last week saying there's no deadline for completing the probe.

"The investigation remains ongoing, and will conclude only when we have gathered, reviewed and evaluated all available evidence," Green said.

He said his office is working closely with the Justice Department and the FBI, and staffers have “devoted hundreds of hours to the investigation."

“Due to the breadth, scope and seriousness of the investigation, all three participating agencies have dedicated significant resources to the case," he said.

Sandra Sterling, Alton Sterling's aunt who raised him since he was 11, said this summer she was frustrated by the pace of the investigation.

“Let’s get this all over (with) so we can all heal," she told USA TODAY.

She and community activist Arthur Reed participated in panels in the Washington area about African-American men who have been killed during encounters with police.

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy said he’s also heard people express their concerns about the investigation. Cassidy, who once represented Baton Rouge as a congressman, said he spoke with Sandra Sterling after the shooting.

“She very much wants this not to go to the back burner," he said. “She very much abhors violence."

Sterling's death ignited demonstrations in Baton Rouge. The city was in the national spotlight again later in July after a gunman killed officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson and Deputy Sheriff Brad Garafola.

Cassidy met last week with law enforcement officials and families of the slain officers.

“What I’m concerned about is, how does our state, how does our nation come together so there’s more understanding," he said. “I’m more about how do we support the police, support our communities, build bridges."

Johnson said the Sterling investigation has been overshadowed by August flooding that devastated communities in Baton Rouge.

“What happened between the flooding and now is folks dealing with the flooding, trying to get back in their homes," he said. “Really there hasn’t been a lot of focus on the Alton Sterling matter because of the flooding."

But he said that will change by next month when the community demands more action.

“That’s just going to be too much time," he said.

Earlier this year, Richmond and Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., introduced legislation to provide law enforcement officials with additional non-lethal tools to subdue suspects.

Richmond and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus also called for a congressional hearing to examine fatal shootings of African Americans by police officers.

Reporter, Deborah Barfield Berry at dberry@gannett.com. Twitter: @dberrygannett


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