“No Justice, No Peace”: The Murder of the “CD Man” and the Continuing Cycle of Police Violence

On Tuesday, in the early hours of the morning, a life was ended at the hands of two Baton Rouge, LA police officers. The life that they so brutally and carelessly snuffed out was that of 37 year old Alton Sterling — known by the locals as the “CD man.” At least one bystander was able to record the brutal events that took place on Tuesday morning, and their graphic cell phone video, although only a mere 48 seconds in length, will shake you to your core. You will feel shock, disgust, and outrage; you will also feel more helpless than you ever have before.

Reports are surfacing, as they tend to do in these situations, that Sterling had an arrest record dating back two decades and that an anonymous 911 caller reported that Sterling had pulled a gun on him — prompting police to arrive at the Triple S Food Mart and set the fatal events in motion. Here’s what I know: it doesn’t matter. The actions of the officers who drew their weapons on Sterling, tased him, tackled him to the ground, and took Sterling’s life by shooting him multiple times at point blank range as he was lying defenseless at their feet are unconscionable.

You can hear one of the officers exclaim, “he’s got a gun!” before they fired those fatal rounds, but so what? Sterling was no longer a threat to them or anyone else — if he ever was in the first place. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has expressed his condolences and his concern over the actions of the two officers, and he has stated that the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department will be investigating the shooting. While I’m happy to hear that there will be an investigation, I’m also skeptical. How many times have we heard the cries for justice and the promises of pending investigations, only for it all to be swept under the rug and forgotten? In 2016 alone, over 500 people have been shot and killed by police. 500 lives gone. How many of those could have been avoided? How many of those people could have been subdued rather than shot, arrested instead of murdered?

In the days after you watch the video of Alton Sterling being murdered, as you read the reports that will condemn Sterling and paint him as a criminal that had it coming, don’t be tempted to blame the victim. Don’t say that he shouldn’t have been carrying the weapon, don’t say that he should’ve gotten on the ground faster, don’t focus on any criminal record or any prior offense that he may have had. If you are tempted to blame Alton Sterling, then watch the video again, open your eyes and see the violence and blatant disregard for life that is shown — not by Sterling, but by those who were sworn to protect and serve — and don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that we don’t have an epidemic of police violence on our hands.