Funeral Held for Alton Sterling, Killed in Baton Rouge Police Shooting: '[His] Blood Calls Out for Justice'
The scenes Friday were of heartbreak and solace, as speakers focused on Sterling's loss – and on peace, protest and change
At the Friday funeral of Alton Sterling, there were tears, songs, poems and resolutions for the future.
The attendees – which reportedly included the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and many state lawmakers – assembled at Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police early on July 5.
The scenes Friday were of heartbreak and solace, as speakers focused on Sterling’s loss – and on peace, protest and change.
“Be the peace in the mind of your people today Lord God,” the minister said in prayer, according to Advocate reporter Steve Hardy. “No more blood, Lord God, in our streets, Lord God.”
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Baton Rouge Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said, “Alton Sterling’s blood calls out for justice,” according to Hardy.
Reading from a poem, a Sterling relative said, “Devil you slay the body but you cannot take the spirit,” according to Hardy.
Described by family members as a gentle, fun presence, Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, was shot by an officer during an altercation outside a convenience store. Police had responded to a 911 call about a man matching Sterling’s description allegedly brandishing a weapon, and officers later said they shot Sterling to stop him from allegedly reaching for a gun.
Video of his shooting death, which captured the moments when he was pinned to the ground by two officers in the parking lot before they fired on him, circulated widely and sparked national controversy.
The shooting is now being investigated by federal authorities. Both officers have reportedly said they felt justified in their use of force. PEOPLE’s attempts to contact the officers have been unsuccessful.
Sterling’s aunt Veda Washington told PEOPLE earlier this week that she was devastated by his death, but that she would not stop pursuing the justice she wants.
“I have to stand back and let God do this,” she said, adding, “While I’m standing back, I’m going to stand back on a corner with a sign and my [hand] raised high: ‘No justice, no peace.’ ”
Sterling’s younger sister, Jade Edwards, told PEOPLE that his passion was putting a smile on others’ faces – and being with his family.
“That was a hobby for him, that’s what he did on his ‘him time,’ ” she said. “He took time out with his family.”
She said he used to smile all the time.
“We’re not going to be able to see that big smile anymore.”