Mourners and protesters demand answers about the death of Alton Sterling. (Screen shot via MSNBC)

Early Tuesday morning, police officers in Baton Rouge, La., pinned Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old African-American man, to the ground. After immobilizing him, at least one of them shot him. The Guardian’s project The Counted states that Sterling is the 558th person in the United States to be killed at the hands of police this year.

According to his autopsy, Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back. East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William Clark stated that the bullet wounds in Sterling’s back were entrance wounds.

Officers were reportedly responding to a call about a man threatening somebody with a gun, but the police have not yet stated whether Sterling actually had a gun. Initial cellphone footage of the incident shows Sterling being held on the ground by two police officers. One seems to yell “Gun!” — and then shots are fired. You can watch this 48-second video footage of Sterling and the officers here, but be warned that it is extremely graphic.

While this initial video of the incident did not show the full encounter, a second video has since emerged. This video was filmed by Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the convenience store outside of which Sterling was shot. (Warning: This video, too, is extremely graphic. It can be viewed here.) The Daily Beast explains the content of the second video:

Muflahi walked out the front door when he saw the officers talking to Sterling and said there was no “altercation,” as police claimed, until the cops tasered and tackled Sterling. That’s when Muflahi took out his phone and started recording. …

“I swear to God if you fucking move!” one of the officers yelled, pointing his gun at Sterling’s chest. “He’s got a gun! Gun!”

Muflahi’s video does not appear to support the officer’s claim that Sterling’s gun represented an active threat: It appears to have been in a pocket and never reached his hand. Instead, the video shows Sterling pinned down, shot twice in the chest, and then shot four more times.

Sterling was still alive, the video capturing his left hand moving over a dark pool of blood filling the center of his red T-shirt. When paramedics arrived minutes later, Sterling was dead.

Sterling’s death and the associated videos quickly made headlines around the nation. Protests have already formed at the store where Sterling was shot, The Advocate reports:

Friends and family of Sterling met outside the convenience store on Tuesday night to protest the shooting. At just about 6 p.m. around 40 to 50 people had gathered at the store, some carrying signs and chanting “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” The crowd swelled to more than 100 people by 7:30 p.m. …

Among the protesters were State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, who sponsored the bill to equip Baton Rouge officers with body cameras when she was on the Metro Council, and local NAACP leader Michael McClanahan.

Important questions surrounding Sterling’s death remain unanswered, but early Wednesday the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice announced it was launching a federal investigation of the case, assisted by the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Baton Rouge. “I have very serious concerns,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “The video is disturbing, to say the least.” Amnesty International USA has also called for an investigation.

For many Americans, Sterling is another name added to the list of African-Americans killed unjustly by police, and a reminder of racial disparities in our criminal justice system. In fact, just one day after Sterling’s death, Minnesota police killed an African-American man who had been pulled over for a broken taillight. The incident and its associated video footage are also making headlines.

Wednesday morning, Sterling’s son, Cameron Sterling, and Cameron’s mother, Quinyetta McMillan, held an emotional press conference. “As a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father,” McMillan said. “The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. held a separate news conference in which he announced he would not resign, despite public outrage. ABC News reports:

[Dabadie] called Sterling’s death a “horrible tragedy” and described the incident as an “altercation” that “resulted in the loss of his life.”

“There’s a lot that we do not understand,” the police chief said, adding, “I am demanding answers.”

The officers involved in the shooting, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, have been placed on leave. A donation page established for Sterling’s family has already raised over $360,000.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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