Alton Sterling: A Rumpus Roundup


If the regular mass shootings have been the distraction you needed to forget about America’s ongoing police violence, Baton Rouge, Louisiana would like to remind everyone that, too, is still a problem. On Monday evening, police shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling while he lay pinned on the ground.

Nearly a thousand fatal police shootings occur each year, and Alton Sterling’s death might have simply become another statistic on an interactive graphic except for one pesky citizen who recorded the incident with his phone. Oops.

Baton Rouge police are currently testing for body cameras, but those cameras might have fallen off during the incident.

The incident played out in the parking lot of a convenience store, but the convenience store surveillance footage was conveniently confiscated by the police.

Despite the malfunctioning body cameras and the disappearing surveillance footage, the phone recording was uploaded to the Internet and disseminated quickly through social media.

Turns out that having two heavily armed white dudes in uniforms shooting a black guy pinned to the ground is fairly unpopular. Within hours, hundreds of people showed up at the store to express their outrage.

Officers are heard on the recording yelling, “he’s got a gun!” However, Abdul Muflahi, owner of the convenience store where Sterling was shot, notes that at the time of the shooting, he did not see a gun and Sterling’s hands were “nowhere near his pocket.”

The coroner reports Sterling was shot multiple times in his back and chest.

Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat representing New Orleans area, has called for a federal investigation of the shooting.

Celebrities have also spoken out on social media.

Sterling is the 114th black man killed by police in 2016.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →