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Alton Sterling shooting: Homeless man made 911 call to police, official says

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BATON ROUGE, La. — A homeless man made the 911 call that brought police to the convenience store where Alton Sterling was killed, a senior law enforcement official said.

Sterling was selling CDs early Tuesday outside the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, the official said, when the homeless man approached him and asked for money.

The man was persistent, and Sterling showed him his gun and told him to leave him alone, the official said, prompting the homeless man to call 911.

The details about the 911 call shed new light into the high-profile fatal shooting of Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, who was killed Tuesday by two white Baton Rouge police officers.

A graphic cell phone video of the shooting was shared widely on social media, quickly sparking local outrage and protests, and drawing national attention. Federal authorities have taken charge of the investigation.

Sterling was shot outside the Baton Rouge convenience store after an encounter with the two police officers, who can be seen in the video on top of him before shots were fired.

Vigils and memorials have spread across the country in reaction to the deadly shooting. Hundreds of mourners, friends and family members of Sterling gathered at the scene of the shooting both Tuesday to Wednesday nights to pray and protest.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is planning to attend a prayer vigil Thursday at 6 p.m. with community and faith leaders as well as other elected officials, the governor’s office announced.

Local civic leaders and Sterling’s loved ones have promised to find out what happened.

“I, for one, will not rest,” said Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of one of Sterling’s children. “And (I) will not allow y’all to sweep him in the dirt.”

As she spoke, Sterling and her’s 15-year-old son stood by, sobbing.

Investigation

The U.S. Justice Department is leading an investigation into what happened.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Baton Rouge, the FBI and state police also will be involved in the investigation, according to Edward’s office. The governor is expected to meet with these officials Thursday to get an update on the investigation.

One of the crucial next steps will be to determine what happened before the confrontation ensued.

Authorities say police were responding to the 911 report of a man “brandishing a gun.” Officers pulled a gun from Sterling’s body at the scene, as senior law enforcement source told CNN, but no further details were provided on the type of firearm.

Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the Triple S Food Mart, said he wasn’t aware of any incident Tuesday that would have spurred such a call, but he’s sure the shooting was caught on his store’s surveillance cameras. Muflahi has not seen the video footage, which police took  later Tuesday.

Additionally, there is police body camera footage of the shooting — even though the cameras were dislodged — Baton Rouge police Lt. Johnny Dunham told reporters Wednesday.

Investigators said they’ll review multiple videos of the shooting, and they’re canvassing for witnesses.

Authorities haven’t said what those police videos or other surveillance footage of the scene show, including the lead-up to what the public has already seen or the possible weapon-brandishing incident.

Two videos appear

There are two videos that have publicly surfaced showing Sterling’s killing — the one that catapulted the case into the national spotlight Tuesday, and a second, shorter video of higher quality recorded closer to the shooting.

The first video was posted online Tuesday night. It begins with the camera facing a car dashboard as the three men stand near the vehicle. A single pop is heard. Then someone yells, “Get on the ground.”

An officer pulls Sterling over the hood of a silver car and pins him to the ground. Once he’s down, the officer begins to assist a second officer in restraining him.

Yelling ensues, though it’s hard to make out what’s being said. Then there are two bangs.

Witnesses inside the car shout and swear. Three more bangs go off. A woman in the car starts crying. 

WARNING: Video contains graphic images and profanity

The second video shows Sterling already on the ground, on his back. One officer is kneeling to Sterling's left. The other officer appears to be straddling Sterling's legs. Sterling can be seen from the chest up, and his lower legs are also visible. His left arm and hands are not visible; his right arm is by his side.

After gunshots are heard, the camera pans to the right, then back to Sterling, who has a large blood stain on his chest. The officer who was on his legs now lies on the pavement above Sterling's head, his gun pointed.

The officer radios for an ambulance. As Sterling moves his left arm toward his face and then his chest, the other officer appears to remove something from one of Sterling's right pockets.

Baton Rouge police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said Sterling was armed at the time he was killed and one witness said the officer removed a gun from Sterling's pocket.

The officers involved in Tuesday's shooting — Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II — have been placed on administrative leave. A source close to the investigation told CNN the officers were questioned Tuesday night.

Reaction

Tensions are running high in the city of 238,000 people as officials vowed to be transparent about how they handle the controversial case.

"The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis," said McMillon, the mother of Sterling's son. "As this video has been shared across the world, you will see with your own eyes how he was handled unjustly and killed without regard for the lives that he helped raise."

Edmond Jordan, an attorney representing Sterling's family, said the first video of the shooting raises troubling questions.

"I think that the city is going to have to give us some good answers," said Jordan, who is also a Louisiana state legislator. "And I don't know if they'll be able to."

Spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters that President Barack Obama is "deeply disturbed" by the Baton Rouge incident, as well as the recent police shooting of Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. The president is following the two situations closely, the White House said Thursday.

The 'CD man'

Sterling was known as the "CD man," a laid-back guy who would sell tunes and DVDs outside the convenience store where he was shot, according to local media.

"Alton was a respected man. He was beloved in the community," said Jordan, Sterling's family attorney. "He did not deserve the treatment and this excessive force that was exerted on him by the police department."

Muflahi, the store owner, said he'd known Sterling for six years and had never seen him get into any sort of confrontation or fight.

"Just five minutes before (the shooting)," Muflahi said, "he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, calling each other names."

Sterling has had earlier encounters with law enforcement.

In 2009, he was charged with carrying a firearm while in possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty two years later and was sentenced to five years in prison, with credit for time served and a recommendation of work release and drug treatment.

There's no evidence that the officers who responded to the convenience store early Tuesday were aware of his criminal history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.