The Justice Department will not pursue charges against two officers involved in the fatal shooting of a black man outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store last year, according to reports.
Sterling was killed in a July 5, 2016, police shooting which was captured on video, sparking protests in the city and across the nation. The 37-year-old was shot by police after being tackled by officers at the store where he was selling CDs.
Police said at the time they were looking for a male suspect matching Sterling's description who threatened a person with a gun, according to NBC News. Authorities said Sterling was armed and had tried to reach for a weapon. The owner of the store said Sterling wasn’t holding a gun during the confrontation, but he saw police remove one from his pocket afterward.
Sterling’s death occurred a day before an officer in Minnesota fatally shot school cafeteria manager Philando Castile at a traffic stop, which was streamed on Facebook Live. That same week, five officers were killed in an ambush by a gunman who "wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
Critics of the police say the Sterling video shows he never reached for the weapon and highlight that Louisiana is an open carry state, NBC News reported. The case may go to the State Attorney General's Office, which had been waiting for the conclusion of the federal investigation.
Despite reports, a Justice Department spokeswoman told CNN the DOJ has not communicated to anyone about the decision. When a decision is made, the family will be told first and then the DOJ will hold a news conference, she said.
The case would be the first high-profile decision made by the office of new Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As noted by the Times, Sessions has said that he will review federal agreements with law enforcement agencies, like the one proposed to overhaul Baltimore police, saying that “the individual misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn” entire departments.
Bringing federal charges in these kinds of incidents is difficult because the law requires the proof of intentional wrongdoing, the Times notes. The paper cited the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which led to no charges being filed.
But civil rights organisations fear the Trump administration and the Justice Department will not prosecute the police for bad behaviour, according to the Post. The head of the civil rights organisation Color of Change released a statement condemning Sessions.
"There is no way to misinterpret the message that Jeff Sessions sent today: Black lives do not matter," Rashad Robinson said in a statement.
There are other major cases still on the Justice Department’s table: The fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and the death of Eric Garner, 43, who lost his life after being put in an apparent chokehold by New York City police officer in 2014.