I am Alton Sterling. I am a young, black American. I am a concealed weapons permit holder. I carry a gun because Congress gave me the right to do so over two hundred years ago. Fact is, in America, we have the right to carry guns. That is no surprise. And it is certainly no surprise to law enforcement. That is why we pay so much money to train our law enforcement officers. It is absolutely inevitable that our law enforcement officers will encounter armed suspects such as Alton Sterling and Aaron Watson.
On the morning of July 6, 2016, two officers were confronted with a situation that they had encountered over and over again during their training at the police academy. They were confronted with an American citizen exercising his right to bear arms. The difference here is that this citizen had no gun in his hand. He was a lot different from the cardboard criminals that the officers used for target practice at the academy. No, this suspect was lying flat on his back, pinned to the ground, with a gun in his pocket. (The same place every licensed gun owner carries his gun or her gun). This was a situation that was familiar to the officers. They had been here before. They were taught to use the "Use of Force Continuum" over and over again at the academy. They were taught to use dialogue to de-escalate situations. But for some reason, on this day, their training went out of the back door.
So, what were the officers trained to do after pinning a suspect to the ground? According to The Use of Force Continuum, a guideline that governs the use of force by police officers, one option is to use "soft techniques" (e.g. grabs, holds, and joint locks to restrain the individual). If soft techniques will not work, the second option is to use "hard techniques", such as batons, chemicals (e.g. pepper spray) and Conducted Energy Devices (e.g. Tasers). Finally, if that doesn't work, the officers may use lethal force if the suspect poses a serious threat to the officer.
Without question, the video of this incident confirms that police training took a back seat from the very beginning. The two officers pulled out their guns as if they were cowboys from the wild, wild west. They unloaded five rounds into Mr. Sterling without hesitation, and without any regard for his life. The question to be decided by a jury is whether the officers' intent was to kill Mr. Sterling (or cause great bodily harm). Pursuant to Louisiana statutes, Second Degree Murder is the killing of a human being with the specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm. Did these officers intend to kill Mr. Sterling? Or were they merely protecting themselves from an armed American, lying flat on his back, with a gun in his pocket? The video is the strongest witness. This was murder.
THE WATSON FIRM, PLLC.
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