Activist Behind Alton Sterling Shooting Video Speaks: 'We're Just Exposing the Corruption'

"Even though he had a gun, that didn't give anyone a right to pass down a death sentence on him," Arthur Reed tells PEOPLE


The Louisiana activist who says he’s behind the release of video footage of Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling tells PEOPLE he hopes the video serves a purpose.

“We’re just exposing the corruption that we have here,” Arthur Reed, 43, says.

He says his Stop the Killing Inc., a community group he founded, obtained video footage of Sterling’s death in Baton Rouge, apparently shot from inside a car just feet away, hours later.

(Reed has previously said in published reports he shot the video, and declined to identify to PEOPLE the person who actually captured the footage, citing concern for the person’s safety.)

Reed says his group distributed the footage to “as many people as we could in the community,” approximately 100 or 125 people.

“We were aggravated about it that law enforcement already had a video from the [convenience store where Sterling was shot] but had not released it,” Reed tells PEOPLE.

“So we wanted to use our network to expose the video,” he says.

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The video, one of two released so far depicting Sterling’s shooting, shows Baton Rouge police officers Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni telling Sterling to get on the ground outside the convenience store.

They had responded to a call around 12:30 a.m. about a man, matching Sterling’s description, allegedly threatening someone with a gun while he was selling CDs, authorities have said. Some kind of “altercation” precipitated the shooting, they said.

In the video, one officer quickly tackles Sterling to the ground, after Sterling has apparently been hit with a stun gun. As the two officers pin Sterling in place, one of the officers yells, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” before firing his weapon at Sterling.

Authorities have said only one officer fired on Sterling, but have not identified which officer it was. Eyewitness Abdullah Muflahi, the convenience store owner, told CNN a gun was recovered from Sterling’s pocket, after he was shot.

(The second video, released after the first and which Reed says was not from his group, shows a different angle on the same actions: Sterling being pinned, and then shot.)

Reed – who says his community group is “anti-violence,” not anti-police, and works with at-risk black youth – says the video of Sterling’s death did not surprise him.

“I was definitely hurt, but I wasn’t shocked,” he says.

Reed claims the video clearly captured the officers committing murder, for which they should be convicted; and he said the video was released, in part, as a response to a preemptive smearing of Sterling’s character.

“Even though he had a gun, that didn’t give anyone a right to pass down a death sentence on him,” Reed says.

He also questioned the officers’ conduct in the video: Did they ask Sterling if he had a permit for his weapon? Why where they so aggressive? Reed says if Sterling weren’t black, he would have been treated differently by responding officers.

The shooting is now being investigated by federal authorities, and both officers are on leave. They have reportedly both said they believe their use of force was justified, according to Advocate reporter Maya Lau.

Despite repeated calls, PEOPLE has not been able to reach either Lake or Salamoni for comment. Neither has spoken publicly about the shooting.

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