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Police shooting of black man in Louisiana sparks protests, questions

13   //    06 Jul 2016, 21:06 IST

By Bryn Stole

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) - About two hundred people on Wednesday protested a fatal police shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, amid calls for a federal investigation into the incident caught on a bystander's video of the shooting.

Protesters chanted "hands up, don't shoot" and "black lives matter" after Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed during an altercation with two Baton Rouge police officers at about 12:30 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, authorities said.

Community leaders and elected officials said there were many questions about the shooting, which came at a time of heightened scrutiny in the United States over the use of deadly force by police against minorities.

Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat representing Baton Rouge, called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Sterling's death.

"We've seen a video that's disturbing and gruesome," said Mike McClanahan, president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP. "We know that justice must be served."

State Representative C. Denise Marcelle said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. told her that both officers' body cameras fell off during a scuffle with Sterling.

Corporal L'Jean McKneely, a police spokesman, told The Advocate newspaper that while the cameras were "dangling" from the officers, they managed to capture audio of the encounter.

The officers, who were placed on administrative leave, had responded to a disturbance call from someone who said a black man wearing a red shirt and selling CDs outside a convenience store had threatened him with a gun.

Several local television stations on Tuesday evening aired what they said was cell phone video of the incident. It showed an officer using a stun gun on a black man in a red shirt in a store parking lot and ordering him to get on the ground.

Two officers then tackled the man to the pavement, and one pulled a gun from his holster and pointed it at the man's chest, the video showed.

At least three gunshots were heard although the camera jerks away from the scene, followed by a woman screaming and crying, and a man asking "they shot him?"

Sterling died at the scene, police said. The video sparked outrage from residents, who said Sterling was a fixture in the neighborhood where he sold CDs.

A rally that began at the Triple S Food Mart convenience store, the site of the shooting, on Tuesday afternoon swelled to a couple of hundred people overnight. Protesters chanted "no justice, no peace," and occasionally blocked traffic. A makeshift memorial at the scene included notes to "Big Alton."

"That could've been my daddy, my brother, anybody," said Takeshea Green, who joined the protest with her family.

(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney and Brendan O'Brien; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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