BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The mother of the son of a man killed by Louisiana police on Friday denounced the killings of five police officers in Dallas during a protest over police shootings, including the one in which Alton Sterling died in Baton Rouge.
Cameron Sterling, left, Alton Sterling’s son, cries, as his mother Quinyetta McMillan speaks about the shooting of Alton Sterling during a press conference and protest at city hall Wednesday, July 6, 2016. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a Baton Rouge police officer Tuesday outside a store where he was selling CDs. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP)
A statement issued by Quinyetta McMillon’s attorneys says “responding to violence with violence is not the answer.”
“We wholeheartedly reject the reprehensible acts of violence that were perpetrated against members of the Dallas Police Department,” the statement says. “Our hearts break for the families of the officers who were lost as they protected protesters and residents alike during a rally.”
McMillon and her son, Cameron Sterling, 15, appeared at a rally outside Baton Rouge’s City Hall after Sterling, 37, was fatally shot Tuesday during a struggle with two police officers outside a convenience store. Sterling was Black; both officers are White.
On Thursday, protesters gathered for a third night at the store where Sterling was shot to death as they tried to make sense of recent events, including a fatal shooting in Minnesota.
“It’s everything adding up,” said Damond Laurance, 29, a welder. “As a race, as a culture, we’re standing up for something. We’re coming together.”
Sandra Sterling, aunt of Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed during a scuffle with police officers, speaks at a vigil outside the Triple S convenience store in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Sterling was killed during an altercation outside the store where he was selling CDs. Cellphone video of his shooting was posted online and set off angry protests in this city of about 229,000, where 54 percent of the population is Black and more than 25 percent live in poverty.
In Minnesota, Philando Castile’s girlfriend streamed video to Facebook after he was shot by a police officer Wednesday. Castile also was Black.
“We’re still grieving for the loss of Alton, and this happens less than 24 hours later,” said Artiyana McGee, a 20-year-old student who stood among the protesters Thursday night with her mother, Dawn. Her mother held a sign with “#Justice 4 Philando Castile” on it.
Protesters blocked the intersection in front of the Triple S Food Mart, where the shooting took place, asking drivers to honk their horns. Candle-lit balloons were released into the hot night air nearby in honor of Sterling and protesters waved signs and chanted slogans.
At a vigil Thursday evening, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards thanked the people of Baton Rouge for their peaceful demonstrations and promised to focus on improving law enforcement.
Photos of Alton Sterling are interspersed with flowers and mementos at a makeshift memorial in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, La., Thursday, July 7, 2016. Sterling, 37, was shot and killed outside the convenience store by Baton Rouge police, where he was selling CDs. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
“We are going to come out of this tragedy stronger and more united than ever,” he said.
According to internal affairs documents released Thursday, the two police officers involved in Sterling’s death had four previous “use of force” complaints lodged against them and were cleared in all of them.
The complaints included three Black men and a Black juvenile. One of the men was shot when police said he pointed a gun at them and the others were injured during arrests and a police pursuit in a vehicle.
The officers involved are Blane Salamoni, a four-year member of the department, and Howie Lake II, who has been on the force for three years. Each had two prior “use of force” complaints.
Lake was involved in a police shooting in December 2014 when a Black man refused to drop his gun, threatened to kill himself and pointed his revolver at officers. The man was wounded by police.
He also injured a combative Black juvenile when they went to the ground during a struggle on April 19, 2014, according to documents. The juvenile cut his chin.
Salamoni’s complaints involved punching a Black man on Aug. 5, 2015, when he tried to grab the officer’s stun gun and a vehicle pursuit on June 17, 2015, in which a Black man was injured when he crashed into a retaining wall.
Separately, Salamoni was issued a letter of caution for his involvement in a “preventable crash” on June 13, 2012.
The documents were released a day after the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting of Sterling. Police say he was armed and an eyewitness said he had a gun in his pocket.
Sterling was a convicted felon, which would have barred him from legally carrying a gun, according to court records.
Sterling pleaded guilty in 2011 to being a felon in possession of a firearm and illegally carrying a weapon. A judge in Baton Rouge sentenced him to five years in prison, giving him credit for time served.
Court records show Sterling also was arrested in May 2009 after an officer confronted him outside a store where he was selling CDs. It was a different store than the one where he was killed.
Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.