Why Justice Department decided not to press charges against officers in Alton Sterling shooting death

jerry2313/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Federal prosecutors found insufficient evidence to charge either police officer involved in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shooting death of Alton Sterling, the U.S. Justice Department announced today, as it laid out in a detailed statement how the department came to that decision.

This federal investigation came after Sterling, an armed black man, was shot and killed on July 5, 2016, during an altercation with white police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II outside Baton Rouge’s Triple S Convenience Store. Parts of the shooting were captured on video and Sterling’s death sparked protests nationwide.

The confrontation began when a 911 caller said a man wearing a red T-shirt selling CDs was armed. When the two responding officers approached Sterling in the parking lot of the convenience store, an altercation ensued, the Justice Department said in a statement today explaining its decision. As officers tried to subdue Sterling, Salamoni shouted that he saw a gun in Sterling’s pocket. Salamoni first fired at Sterling after he allegedly saw him reaching for the weapon, the Justice Department said. Sterling then continued to move, prompting Salamoni to fire again, into Sterling’s back.

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Corey Amundson said at a news conference this afternoon that the “exhaustive, almost year-long” federal investigation focused on whether either officer violated federal criminal civil rights laws or any other federal criminal law.

The Justice Department pointed to a number of questions it sought to answer in its investigation to reach its ultimate decision.

Did Sterling reach for his weapon?

In the statement today, the Justice Department said that while the videos “do not show Sterling’s right hand at the time those shots were fired,” they do “show that Sterling’s right hand was not under Officer Salamoni’s control.”

The statement added: “The evidence also cannot establish that Sterling was not reaching for a gun when Officer Salamoni yelled that Sterling was doing so.”

Also, the Justice Department said that while two witnesses said they could see Sterling’s right hand and said his hand wasn’t in his pocket, the department found that the witness statements were inconsistent and that some of their statements didn’t coincide with the videos.

Were the actions taken by the officers reasonable?

Two independent use-of-force experts “concluded that the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances and thus met constitutional standards,” the Justice Department said.

“The experts emphasized that the officers were responding to a call that someone matching Sterling’s description had brandished a weapon and threatened another person; that Sterling was large and strong; and that Sterling was failing to follow orders and was struggling with the officers,” the statement explained.

“The experts noted that the officers also attempted to control Sterling through multiple less-than-lethal techniques before ultimately using lethal force in response to Officer Salamoni’s perception that Sterling was attempting to use a gun.”

Was the second series of shots a violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Federal investigators also considered whether the second series of shots Salamoni fired was a prosecutable Fourth Amendment violation. The Fourth Amendment outlines what constitutes an illegal search and seizure.

“Although the videos show that Sterling’s right hand was not in or near his right pocket, Sterling was continuing to move, even after being shot three times and being told again not to move by Officer Lake,” the Justice Department said.

“Meanwhile, the officers were behind Sterling, and Officer Salamoni was lying on the ground, facing Sterling’s back. Given these circumstances, the evidence cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it did not appear to Officer Salamoni that Sterling was reaching for his pocket. Nor could the Department prove that the officer’s conduct was willful.”

The investigation’s conclusion

The Justice Department ultimately decided that it did not have enough evidence to pursue charges against either officer.

“Given the totality of the circumstances – that the officers had been fighting with Sterling and had attempted less-than-lethal methods of control; that they knew Sterling had a weapon; that Sterling had reportedly brandished a gun at another person; and that Sterling was much larger and stronger than either officer — the Department cannot prove either that the shots were unconstitutional or that they were willful,” the Justice Department said in its statement.

“Moreover, two different, independent experts opined that this shooting was not unreasonable given the circumstances,” the statement continued. “With respect to the first series of shots, the experts assessed that it was not unreasonable for Officer Salamoni to use lethal force, in light of all of the circumstances referenced above. With respect to the second series of shots, both experts emphasized that officers are trained to eliminate a threat, and that Sterling appeared to pose a threat because he was still moving and his right hand was not visible to Officer Salamoni.”

Sterling’s family and officials react

Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, said Tuesday night of the Justice Department’s then-reported decision, “It’s crazy. It’s like we waited all this time for nothing.”

“It just hurts so bad,” she said. “It’s a horrible pain. … It’s like going back to the first day all over again.”

Amundson, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, said this afternoon, “There are no winners here, and there are no victories for anybody. A man has died, a father, a nephew has died. My heart goes out to the family. … There simply isn’t enough evidence to proceed with the federal charge.”

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said today that she was appalled that news of the DOJ’s decision was “leaked” on Tuesday through the press before Sterling’s family was notified.

Multiple news outlets, including ABC News, reported on Tuesday that the DOJ was expected to announce that it would not be filing charges against the officers. Michael Adams, an attorney for Andricka Williams, mother of three of Sterling’s children, told ABC News today that Williams is disappointed that the DOJ isn’t bringing charges, adding that Williams learned of the DOJ’s decision from the media on Tuesday even though the family was allegedly promised it would be told first.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying it was “disrespectful to tell the family that they could expect to know first,” adding, “I do hope there is an investigation into how that leak occurred.”

What’s next

The federal investigation has now been closed, although a state investigation will follow, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Edwards said, “It is now up to the Louisiana Department of Justice … to determine whether any state charges will be brought.”

“While we await that decision,” Edwards said, “and as I’ve said many times … we still have too many people in our community who are afraid of the police and too many police officers afraid of members of our community.”

“We all have a role to play to make things better,” Edwards said

Michael Adams, an attorney representing Williams, told ABC News this morning that while Williams is “disappointed that the federal government could not bring civil rights charges … we are hopeful that their report will be sufficient enough, when it’s turned over to the appropriate state officials, that state charges will be filed against these two officers for the unjustified killing of Mr. Sterling.”

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

American University releases video of a person of interest in alleged banana hate crime investigation

The Washington Post/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — American University has released two surveillance videos in an effort to track down whoever committed what campus police called a “racially motivated hate crime,” one that left bananas hanging from string fashioned into nooses on campus.

The videos were taken at around 4 a.m. Monday at the Washington, D.C., college, the police said, and show a figure moving through school property. The person’s face is not clear in the footage.

The bananas were found on the same day that Taylor Dumpson, a black woman, started her tenure as the first black woman president of the American University Student Government.

A second video of the subject is available at https://t.co/wGqFgUPQHf. Submit tips to https://t.co/PO7d92VbaR.

— AU Police (@AUPublicSafety) May 2, 2017

AUPD has released two videos of the subject involved in the recent racially motivated hate crime on campus (1 of 2): https://t.co/MhouA5fzcO

— AU Police (@AUPublicSafety) May 2, 2017

The acronym for Dumpson’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, “AKA,” was written on some of the bananas, according to a report in The Eagle, a school newspaper.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is among the nine major, predominantly black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities.

Other bananas were marked with the words “Harambe Bait,” according to photos published in the Eagle, apparently referring to the gorilla that was shot at the Cincinnati Zoo last year, and became an internet meme, sometimes applied in a derogatory manner.

Dumpson addressed the incident in a memo that started with the phrase “Being first isn’t easy.”

“This is not what I imagined my first letter to you all would be, Dumpson wrote. “In my first message to the student body, I would have wanted to talk about accountability, transparency, accessibility, and inclusivity. Now more than ever, we need to make sure that members of our community feel welcomed and above all, safe on this campus.”

American University is 55 percent white, according to College Factual, a company that keeps statistics about universities. The school is a little over 6 percent black.

Others at the school expressed outrage over the incident.

“These racist, hateful messages have no place in our community,” Fanta Aw, the interim vice-president of campus life, wrote in a memo to the university community. “The safety of our students is paramount.”

University President Neil Kerwin Tuesday night addressed students in an effort to calm concerns about the incident, with some students marching in protest afterwards, ABC Washington affiliate WJLA-TV reported.

Kerwin also said in a statement, “The crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry reported this morning is under investigation by AU Campus Police with assistance from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and other AU offices and senior officials.”

“We strongly condemn what happened; will do all that we can to find those responsible; and ask that anyone who may know of those involved to please step forward and contact Public Safety.”

One student, Lale Herguner, told WJLA, “I really hope they find who did this because it’s terrible. A lot of people want answers and they deserve answers.”

Campus police are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the suspect.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

North Lake College in Texas on lockdown due to active shooter, police say

iStock/Thinkstock(IRVING, Texas) — Two people are dead at a college campus in Irving, Texas, in an apparent murder-suicide, police said.

Within an hour of declaring an active shooter at North Lake College, the Irving Police Department said one victim is dead and the suspected shooter appears to have committed suicide.

Police said they are no longer looking for a suspect as “there appears to be no continuing threat,” but responding officers will continue searching to ensure the area is secure.

North Lake College, a two-year public community college located in the Las Colinas area of Irving with more than 10,000 students, remains on lockdown.

Active shooter at Northlake College – avoid the area.

— Irving Police Dept. (@IrvingPD) May 3, 2017

We have what appears to be one victim deceased & the shooter has committed suicide.

— Irving Police Dept. (@IrvingPD) May 3, 2017

There appears to be no continuing threat but police will continue to search to make the campus safe.

— Irving Police Dept. (@IrvingPD) May 3, 2017

Earlier, police told ABC News there “may be injuries” but could not confirm a number.

North Lake College notified its students and faculty of the lockdown on Twitter, urging those not on campus to “stay away for your own safety.”

North Lake College-Intruder Lock-down. Go to nearest room and lock-down. If not at campus STAY AWAY for your own safety (DCCCD Alerts)

— North Lake College (@northlakenow) May 3, 2017

The college also tweeted that police are on the scene.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Levee breaks in Arkansas as record flooding continues to plague the region

iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) — Pervasive flooding continues to plague parts of the Midwest and South, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Missouri is bracing for what could be a dangerous, record-breaking week, and a levee breach just below the border in Arkansas could present a life-and-death situation, the NWS reported.

A levee breach has been confirmed along the Black River in Pocahontas, a small city located in Randolph County, Arkansas, which is close to the border of Missouri, according to the NWS. Weather officials called the situation “life-threatening” due to the risk of flash flooding.

Weather-related incidents have killed at least 17 people in parts of the Midwest and South since the weekend, but the bulk of the flood damage has occurred in Arkansas and Missouri, where dangerous conditions have not subsided.

Heavy rains caused an abrupt rise in rivers located in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas. ABC meteorologists anticipate more precipitation to pummel those water bodies Wednesday and Thursday, flooding some regions at record levels.

Approximately 4 inches of rain are possible in the area around St. Louis, according to ABC meteorologists.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Car crash at auto auction leaves three dead in Massachusetts

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Three people were killed and at least 11 others were injured in what is believed to be an accidental car crash at an auto auction in Billerica, Massachusetts, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office and Massachusetts State Police.

A witness said a jeep hit people standing inside the Lynnway Auto Auction as vehicles were lining up and then crashed through the wall of the building, ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston reported.

“I heard a screeching of tires, and, I believe, a Jeep Cherokee went flying by me. In avoiding the cars, whoever was driving this vehicle hit several people,” said Woody Tuttle, an auto auction employee who witnessed the crash, told WCVB.

The State Police said in a news release that authorities believe the incident was an accident.

“At this point, there is no evidence or information to suggest the incident was caused by an intentional or terrorist act. All evidence and information at this time suggest an accidental cause,” the release stated.

Billerica is located about 24 miles northwest of Boston.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Texas cop who fatally shot 15-year-old identified by police

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — The former police officer who fatally shot 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in a Dallas suburb on Saturday has been identified as Roy Oliver.

Balch Springs Police Department Chief Jonathan Haber released the officer’s identity at a press conference Tuesday night while announcing that Oliver had been fired from his post. Oliver had been a a member of the department for nearly six years.

Oliver was one of two officers who responded to a 911 call about “several underage intoxicated juveniles” at a residence in Balch Springs in Dallas County, Texas, on Saturday around 11 p.m. local time, according to police.

Upon arriving, the responding officers discovered a large house party at the location. While trying to locate the owners of the house, the officers heard “multiple gunshots” coming from outside which caused a “chaotic scene” with people fleeing the area. The officers exited the residence to investigate the gunshots and confronted a vehicle backing down the street, police said.

Police initially said that the vehicle backed up in the direction of the responding officers “in an aggressive manner” despite multiple verbal commands. Oliver then opened fire and struck Edwards, a high school freshman who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police later admitted, however, that they had misspoken in recounting what occurred and that it appeared as though the vehicle Edwards was in was driving away from the officers when shots were fired, based on footage from police body cameras.

“I unintentionally, incorrectly said the vehicle was backing down the road,” Haber said at a press conference Monday. “According to the video, the vehicle was moving forward as the officer approached.”

Haber added, “After reviewing the video, I don’t believe that [the shooting] met our core values.”

The video footage will not be released to the public, Haber said.

According to a press release issued Tuesday night, the Balch Springs Police Department said it has “determined” that Oliver “violated several departmental policies.” The department said it could not elaborate on which policies were violated since Oliver can appeal his termination.

Oliver was initially removed from duty and placed on leave. He has not been involved in any similar incidents, according to Haber.

The announcement of the officer’s dismissal was welcomed by the Edwards family.

“We are grateful the decision has been made to terminate the office responsible for Jordan’s murder,” the family said in a statement Tuesday night. “Over the past 24 hours Chief Haber has made commendable strides toward justice. However, there remains a long road ahead.”

The family said they “anxiously await” the officer’s “arrest for the crime of murder.”

The Dallas County Medical Examiner has ruled Edwards’ death a homicide. The cause of death was listed as a rifle wound to the head, according to ABC affiliate WFAA-TV in Dallas.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into the fatal shooting, while the Balch Springs Police Department is conducting an internal investigation of its own.

Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the Edwards family, confirmed to ABC News on Monday that a rifle was used.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Haber would not answer reporters’ questions at the press conference Monday. The police chief vowed to be “transparent” and “accountable” in the investigation.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Two Chicago officers shot in 'targeted' attack; manhunt underway

The Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) — Two on-duty Chicago officers were shot and wounded when two vehicles pulled up beside them on Tuesday and began “firing indiscriminately” in what is thought to be a targeted attack, the Chicago Police Department said.

The officers, both male, were conducting an investigation in the city’s south side when “one, possibly two vehicles, pulled alongside them and started firing indiscriminately at the officers,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a press conference early Wednesday morning.

One officer was shot in the arm and hip and the other in the back, Johnson said. They were taken to a local hospital and are both expected to make a complete recovery, he said.

The department believes that the officers were the intended targets. They returned gunfire, according to the department, but it did not say if they hit anyone.

“They were firing at the officers,” Johnson said. “Right now, there’s an extensive manhunt underway for the individuals responsible and we will get them.”

The officers, who were dressed in plain clothes, were conducting a follow-up investigation to a previous incident when they were hit, according to the department. It declined to offer details on the nature of the case the officers were working on.

Police found multiple weapons and a vehicle they believe are linked to the shooting, Johnson said.

The department said it is questioning “a few” people in connection to the case.

“It’s just another example of how dangerous this job is,” said Johnson. “And I think people take it for granted that when police officers come to work every day, they put their lives on the line every single day they get in their car.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel echoed Jonson’s comments in a statement posted on Twitter after the incident.

“Tonight was a frightening reminder of the dangers our dedicated officers face,” Emanuel tweeted. “Thank you @Chicago_Police for putting service above self.”

Johnson noted that the area where the shooting took place had been troubled by gun activity.

“We have to do something about the gun violence in this city,” he said. “If they will fire at police officers like that, then they have no type of thought process in terms of firing at other citizens in this great city.”

Witnesses reported hearing as many as 30 shots of gunfire, and some said it sounded like an assault rifle.

One witness, who declined to give her name, told ABC’s Chicago affiliate WLS-TV that she was waiting at a nearby bus stop when the incident occurred.

“They weren’t messing around,” she said. “I’ve seen shootings but I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Kansas officer's bodycam captures rescue of boy who fell in pond

The Topeka Police Department(TOPEKA, Kan.) — A Kansas police department said its officer was “in the right place at the right time” when he jumped into a pond Sunday to rescue a drowning 4-year-old boy.

Officer Aaron Bulmer was patrolling an area near the Central Park Community Center in Topeka when he saw the child fall into the pond, the Topeka Police Department said Monday.

Body camera footage captured the dramatic moment when the officer dove into the pond to save the child, who was later identified as being diagnosed with autism.

In the video, Bulmer can be heard yelling for someone to dial 911 as he carries the gasping child.

“I got a civilian. He almost drowned,” the officer said. “I got him out.”

The department commended the officer for “a job well done,” in a statement released Monday.

“Many times, children with autism are drawn to water, as was displayed in this case,” the department said in the statement. “Officer Bulmer was in the right place at the right time to save a young life.”

The boy, whose parent was looking for him at the time, was transported to a local hospital for medical evaluation, according to the statement. The department did not offer details about the child’s condition.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Video captures small plane crash in Washington

The Mukilteo Police Department(MUKILTEO, Wash.) — A small plane crashed over a busy road in Mukilteo, Washington, on Tuesday, leaving behind it a burst of flames that was recorded in dashcam video.

The footage recorded by a motorist’s car showed the plane clipping power lines as it went down. There were no injuries, according to the Mukilteo Police Department, which posted images of the wreckage on Twitter.

Several vehicles were damaged in the accident, the department said, and at least one vehicle appeared to be burned, according to the images posted on Twitter. Police ordered the public to avoid the area.

According to ABC’s Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV, the plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Paine Field airport in Everett, Washington, which is located about 30 minutes north of Seattle.

One witness, Amanda Hayes, told KOMO that the wing of the plane grazed her car right before it went down.

“I’m so lucky,” Hayes said. “I just said, ‘Get down!’ And before I know it, I could feel the heat on my face… and like the fireball and the wing clipped at the end.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Charlie Puth to debut new single on “The Voice” next week

Trae Patton/NBCCharlie Puth was an adviser for Alicia Keys on season 11 of The Voice, and he’ll return to the NBC competition show next week as a performer.

Next Tuesday night, Charlie will bring fans the TV debut of his new single “Attention,” the first release from his upcoming sophomore album.  That same night, country star Maren Morris will sing her latest hit, “I Could Use a Love Song.”

Starting July 6 in Portland, Oregon, Charlie will hit the road as the opening act for Shawn Mendes.  The tour is set to wrap up in late August.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.