Authorities in Louisiana said today that the Baton Rouge police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling will not face criminal charges, a decision announced nearly two years after his death prompted intense protests.
The announcement makes Sterling's death the latest high-profile police shooting to end without charges for officers involved, following on the heels of federal authorities last year declining to prosecute either officer in the case.
Sterling was killed in July 2016 by officers responding to a call about a man who had threatened someone with a gun. The Baton Rouge officers then encountered Sterling, 37, selling CDs outside of a convenience store, and fatally shot him during an encounter that lasted less than 90 seconds.
"This decision was not taken lightly," Louisiana Attorney-General Jeff Landry said during a news briefing. He added: "I know the Sterling family is hurting. I know that they may not agree with this decision."
The Justice Department said last year it decided against bringing federal charges against officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, concluding that there was "insufficient" evidence to prove that they violated Sterling's civil rights.
Federal law sets a very high bar for civil rights charges against officers, requiring that authorities prove an officer's intent at the time of the shooting.
Landry said the state could not proceed with a prosecution of either officer involved based on an extensive review of evidence gathered by federal authorities as well as his office's own investigation.
Landry said the investigation concluded that both officers "attempted to make a lawful arrest of Alton Sterling based upon probable cause."
He said the officers acted on the assumption that Sterling was armed while resisting the officers' attempts to arrest him. After Sterling was shot, Lake found and removed a loaded .38 calibre handgun from Sterling's right front pocket, according to Landry's office.
Landry also said toxicology reports showed that Sterling had drugs in his system at the time of his death, which Landry linked to Sterling's behaviour during his encounter with police.
"It is reasonable that Mr Sterling was under the influence and that contributed to his noncompliance," said Landry, who did not take questions after announcing his decision.
Landry's office also released a 34-page report which said Sterling's body tested positive for opioids, cocaine and other drugs, results that "clearly indicated that he was under the influence of a combination of illegal substances," this report stated.
The same report also said Sterling's autopsy showed he had been shot six times - three times in the chest and three more times in his back - and all six bullets were recovered from his body. His cause of death was deemed a homicide caused by gunshot wounds to his heart, lung, esophagus and liver.
Sterling's death in July 2016 came at a fraught moment of racial tension in the US amid shootings by and of police officers.
A day after Sterling's death prompted outrage and protests, an officer in Minnesota shot and killed Philando Castile, a school cafeteria worker, during a traffic stop, the aftermath of which was streamed live on Facebook.
That same week, five police officers in Dallas were gunned down by a black man angry at police, and just days later, another gunman killed three officers in Baton Rouge.
Sterling's relatives and their lawyers assailed the decision, noting that they would continue pressing the case through a civil lawsuit filed last year.
"The system failed us," Sandra Sterling, his aunt, said during a news conference. "He was not a monster. . . . This was a family man. A family man."