Tulsa Leaders Weigh In As Controversy Swirls Over Deadly Louisiana Police Shooting

Wednesday, July 6th 2016, 11:13 pm
By: News On 6

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating another black man shot to death by police.

Cell phone video shows the confrontation with Alton Sterling outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana convenience store Tuesday.

At one point, you hear someone scream, "He's got a gun." A few seconds later, shots are fired, and Sterling is dead.

The Baton Route police chief said his officers were responding to reports that a man threatened someone outside the store with a gun, but Sterling's family said it was murder. Their attorney said the video clearly shows Sterling was not reaching for a weapon.

As people protest the police shooting death in Baton Rouge; here in Tulsa, people are carrying on the national conversation about race, police actions, and what can be learned from the latest shooting.

To some, it isn't a white and black issue, it's a blue issue. But to others, a short video doesn't tell the full story; and caught in the middle, is the discussion about equality, with life or death implications.

The video isn't easy to watch - 37-year-old Alton Sterling is on his back with two officers on top of him. A gun is pulled, shots fired, and Sterling is pronounced dead at the scene.

"It's kind of a tone that we've seen play out throughout the course of the last two years," said Marq Lewis, with We The People Oklahoma.

It’s a tone, he says, can only change with accountability.

Lewis said, "We see the shooting happen in such an execution way, and I think that's what really polarized people."

But recently, in Green Country, the community has had a different reaction.

"We saw in the Robert Bates situation, he was held accountable, but that's very rare," Lewis said.

Special Coverage: Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Controversy

For Captain Mike Eckert, that's because of the area's history and community relations.

“There is a lot of preparation, a lot of training that goes into situations like that - to try and make the best outcome for everybody involved," Eckert said.

But, he adds, the deescalation training doesn't always work, and that there's always room for improvement.

"I think they work, sometimes. I think there is some people that they absolutely don't work on" Eckert said.

He points to the Eric Harris case, saying people protested peacefully, the judicial process proceeded, and justice was served.

But, Eckert said, "It doesn't mean that we're not one mistake away from something bad happening here."

Lewis said if the community feels accountability is being upheld in these cases, we won't see violent outbursts. Eckert said it's important to let the process play out before responding in any way to the short seconds we see on video.