01:58 - Source: WAFB
Two police officers on leave after fatal shooting

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Following the police shooting of a Louisiana man, a lawmaker called for an investigation

"I call on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident," Richmond said

Washington CNN  — 

Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond called on the Justice Department Wednesday morning to investigate the death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old man shot as he lay on the ground with two Baton Rouge police officers on top of him and the department later said it would launch a probe.

“This case warrants a very thorough and transparent investigation because we have to make sure that justice is served. And we have to give the community all of the facts and make sure that they understand that nothing is going to be swept under the rug,” Richmond said Wednesday on CNN’s “At this Hour” with John Berman and Kate Bolduan.

A video of the Tuesday incident, which was posted to social media, gained national attention and sparked protests in Louisiana, and Richmond hopes an investigation can solve some of the “unanswered questions” the incident raises.

“There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding Mr. Sterling’s death. Including questions about the initial calls for police presence, the level of force used by officers, the verbal and physical altercation, and the response of the officers after he was shot,” Richmond said Wednesday in a statement.

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Richmond’s district includes Baton Rouge, where protesters gathered outside of the convenience store where the shooting occured Tuesday night. On Twitter, #AltonSterling was trending later in the day Tuesday with high-profile users like singer Zendaya and Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., commenting on the shooting.

“I ask the leaders and citizens of Baton Rouge to join me in demonstrating our anger with dignity and demanding proper focus on our cause with perseverance,” Richmond added. “His family and the citizens of Baton Rouge – especially the citizens of North Baton Rouge – deserve answers and that is what we will seek in a fair, thorough, and transparent way.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama is aware of the police-involved shooting in Baton Rouge and noted White House officials talk to local officials in the area. Earnest also said that now the Department of Justice is investigating, he expects those calls to stop so as to not have undue influence from the White House on the investigation.

“The President is aware of this and regardless of what this investigation finds, there is a family in Baton Rouge and there is a community that’s grieving right now. And obviously our thoughts and prayers are with the family that’s lost a loved one,” Earnest said Wednesday.

Justice Department Spokesperson David Jacobs said Wednesday that the department has opened a civil rights investigation into Sterling’s death.

“The FBI’s New Orleans Division, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana have opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Alton Sterling,” he said in a statement. “The Justice Department will collect all available facts and evidence and conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation.”

Baton Rouge police told CNN that detectives will review the video. Local police say it was not sent to them, but that it was first given to the media and put on social media.

The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure following an officer-involved shooting.

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Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said Tuesday that there will be an investigation into Sterling’s death.

“This is not going to be a cover up,” Holden told WBRZ.

Former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson called Sterling’s death “a legal lynching.”

“The shooting of #AltonSterling in #BatonRouge is a legal lynching. Justice must prevail. #Outraged,” he tweeted.

And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted, “When somebody is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a DOJ investigation. #AltonSterling.”