In the span of just two days, America has seen two black men killed on camera by police: Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile of St. Paul, Minnesota. As federal investigations into both shootings commence, the public is learning more about the men who lost their lives.
Alton Sterling, 37, was the father of five children. He was known in the community as the “CD Man,” as he often sold CDs and DVDs outside of convenience stores, just as he was doing on Monday night when he was shot by police in a scuffle on Tuesday.
When Sterling was 24 years old, he was convicted of a felony charge “carnal knowledge of a juvenile,” meaning he was convicted of having sexual contact with a person between the ages of 13 and 17. He was released from prison in October 2004.
According to the New York Daily News, Sterling was also arrested for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, unauthorized entry and domestic abuse battery. In 2009, he was sentenced to another five years in prison for marijuana possession and for carrying an illegal weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.
The night Sterling was killed, a 911 dispatcher told police that a man selling CDs on a street corner had a gun in his pocket and had pulled the gun on someone who had a complaint. According to CNN, the call was made by homeless man that had been asking Sterling for money.
Video captured by two bystanders show that Sterling had the gun in his pocket at the time of his death, though he did not have the gun in his hand when he was killed by police.
Louisiana allows open carry of firearms, though carriers must be able to legally be able to posses a gun. Sterling was not able to legally possess a gun because he was on probation.
Philando Castile was 32 years old when he was shot and killed by police Falcon Heights Police on Wednesday evening. Castile was a cafeteria supervisor at the J.J. Hill Montesori school in St. Paul, where he reportedly worked for over a decade. According to a Facebook page allegedly belonging to Castile, he graduated St. Paul Central High School in 2001 and attended the University of Minnesota.
Friends and family at the scene on Wednesday evening described Castile as a “straight-A student,” “very nonconfrontational,” “a real upstanding citizen” and “by the book.” According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, Castile did have misdemeanor and petty crimes on his record.
According to a Facebook Live video taken by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, Castile was pulled over by police on Wednesday for a broken taillight on his car. During the stop, Castile informed officers that he was armed and permitted to carry a weapon under concealed carry laws. While reaching for his ID, an unidentified officer shot Castile five times in the chest.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.