How Alton's Sterling Family Is Coping After His Death
In an emotional interview this week, aunt Veda Washington spoke to PEOPLE and said the family still seeks justice
It’s been nine days since police shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Nine long days, Sterling’s aunt Veda Washington tells PEOPLE in an emotional interview.
“That’s why I lost my voice,” she says. “I’ve been screaming since they murdered my nephew.”
She adds: “Not all police officers are murderers, not all of them are murderers and I know they’re not. But I know for sure – I know for sure – that these two police officers are murderers, and I’m gonna get some justice.”
Authorities have said Sterling was fatally shot early July 5 after officers responded to a 911 call about a man matching Sterling’s description who had allegedly been brandishing a weapon at a convenience store.
Video of his shooting death, showing officers Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni pinning Sterling to the ground in the parking lot before firing on him, circulated widely in the immediate aftermath, sparking widespread protests.
The officers said they fired on Sterling “to stop the threat” because they allegedly saw him attempting to reach for a gun in his pants, according to an affidavit for a search warrant obtained by ABC News. A gun was retrieved from Sterling’s pocket after the shooting, an eyewitness told CNN.
The federal government is investigating Sterling’s death. Officials have said only one officer fired on Sterling, but have not specified which one.
Neither Lake nor Salamoni, who are both on leave, has spoken publicly. PEOPLE has not been able to reach them for comment.
‘A Part of Me Was Ripped Out of My Belly’
“The night Alton died, I felt like a part of me was ripped out of my belly,” Washington tells PEOPLE. She says she has spent hour after hour, day after day, out in the community protesting his death. She says she returns to her home only briefly, to be by herself and reflect with God.
“I have to stand back and let God do this,” she says.
But she adds: “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.’ ”
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Washington says her family is standing with her, including Alton’s other aunts and uncles.
“The media is trying to say that our family is broken,” she says. “We’re not broken, we’re not broken. We’re hurting and we’re mourning.”
Sterling’s oldest son, Cameron, told CBS News this week that Alton was a good father.
“I really want everyone to know, everyone nationwide, everyone in this world, to know that Alton Sterling was a good man,” he said. “No matter what anyone else has to say about him, truly in my heart, I know he was a good dad.”
Alton’s younger sister, Jade Edwards, told PEOPLE last week that he was a joyful father to his five kids – always playing with them, indulging them and making them laugh.
“That’s what he did on his ‘him time.’ He took time out with his family,” she said.
Alton’s criminal history included a 2000 conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile. But Edwards said Alton should not be judged on his past.
Washington declined to comment on the allegation that Alton was reaching for a weapon when he was killed, but she reiterated her desire that Lake and Salamoni be charged in his death.
She says she has felt compelled to speak out, to crack any shell of silence around Alton’s death.
“My voice will be heard, yes sir, my voice will be heard,” she says. “I’m not going to stop.”