Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the investigation who have seen the four yet-to-be-released videos of the police encounter with Sterling describe them as “very graphic” and “disturbing.”
The sources described the contents of the videos, which came from a police dash camera, two body cameras worn by Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, and a surveillance camera at the Triple S convenience store.
Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Salamoni outside the store in July 2016. Previously released cell phone video showed Sterling pinned to the ground by the officers before he was shot.
Police said Sterling was shot because he was reaching for a gun. The Justice Department said in May that evidence couldn’t prove or disprove that Sterling was reaching for a weapon.
A state report released Tuesday said that Lake removed a loaded .38-caliber handgun from Sterling’s right front pocket after he was killed.
The killing gripped the nation in part because two videos taken by bystanders, each less than a minute long, were released publicly shortly after the shooting and captured the final part of Sterling’s struggle with the two white officers.
Outrage over Sterling’s death led to renewed Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.
Sterling seen in front of store
In a roughly 30-minute surveillance video from the convenience store, Sterling is seen at the front of the store, sitting at a table and selling CDs, smoking cigarettes and listening to rap music.
According to one source, the store surveillance video shows Sterling walk over to a man seen in the left-hand corner of the camera and then point what appears to be a gun at the man. He then puts the object down and puts it in his right-front pocket. The source says it is not clear from the video that it is a gun. The man is unidentifiable in the video; the camera is positioned behind Sterling.
Authorities have said they received a 911 call from a man who said someone had pulled a gun on him, and that the call led to Officers Salamoni and Lake to the Triple S Convenience store on July 5, 2016.
Minutes later, Sterling is seen on camera conducting a transaction with a different individual. At this point, sources say he removes what appears to be a gun from his right-front pocket, which is seen on camera, and puts it in his waistband to conduct the transaction. Sterling then removes what appears to be money from his right pocket, hands it to the man, and then takes what appears to be a gun from his waistband and puts it back in his front right pocket.
“Within 10 seconds,” a source said, Sterling, with his right hand in his right front pocket, is shown “jokingly” making a shooting motion towards the man, “pretending” to shoot at the man from his right front pocket. The gun is not visible in the video, but the gun-play motion of Sterling insinuating to fire at his friend is seen on video while he is heard saying, “pow, pow, pow.”
Officers arrive, one points gun at Sterling
Minutes later, Lake arrives, followed by Salamoni.
Multiple sources describe the body camera footage as “very graphic” and “disturbing.” The body camera footage begins as the officers drive to the scene.
In the footage from Salamoni’s body camera, he can be seen approaching Sterling aggressively and eventually has his gun trained on Sterling’s head, while Sterling has his back to the officers, the sources said.
Lake can be seen attempting to restrain Sterling’s left hand while Salamoni can be seen attempting to grab Sterling’s right hand.
At this point, the video shows Salamoni, with his gun still trained on Sterling’s head yell “PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE F***ING CAR OR I WILL BLOW YOUR F***ING HEAD OFF. PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE CAR OR I WILL BLOW YOUR F***ING HEAD OFF.”
The language is described by multiple sources as being “very aggressive.”
Sources say you can then hear Salamoni say, “HE’S GOT A GUN.”
Cell phone videos showed moments of shooting
The rest of the encounter from this point was captured on witness cell phone video. Both officers’ body cameras became dislodged during the struggle with Sterling.
Sterling was shot three times by Salamoni in the chest and then three times in the back.
The dashcam video is said to show 30 to 40 seconds of the encounter, but does not reveal much of the incident.
Sources say at no point does either officer use racially charged language.
The videos, which are expected to be released to the public as early as Friday, are likely to be seen by both sides as backing up their account.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Tuesday that the officers will not face charges after an investigation determined that the shooting was justified.
In May 2017, federal prosecutors found there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant civil rights charges against Salamoni and Lake.
The feds cited use-of-force experts who determined the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances — including that the two used several less-than-lethal techniques before using force, and that Sterling struggled with the officers and failed to follow orders.