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Rep. John Lewis on Shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

July 8, 2016
Press Release

Like so many Americans, I had a chance to view the murder of Alton Sterling on video.  I am not an expert, but to me, it looked like an execution. I cannot understand why any citizen who is complying with police commands should need to fear for his life and then be murdered.  The lives of his wife and children are shattered.  How can they ever be repaired?

I cannot imagine the courage that it took for Philando Castile's friend to remain calm and thoughtful while he lay there beside her bleeding to death.  These are not the kinds of experiences that law-abiding citizens should have in the hands of police in America, whether they have a police record or not.

We must recognize that the African American community is growing weary of the rationale and reasons given to explain these deaths.  The taking of black lives seems to be a regular, accepted  practice used at will by some police officers without regard for the consequences.  The repeated, widespread inability or unwillingness of local courts and prosecutors to punish what appears to be flagrant disregard for human life is hard for any community to bear.  We can expect continued protests, and if we are not sensitive to these long-standing, valid concerns, we will have a long, hot summer.

Police officers need to be trained and re-trained to deal with Americans from different cultures whose lives they are supposed to respect and defend.  Leaders in communities and on the national level must address the persistent, inherent bias within police ranks against black and brown citizens.  The time is now to say enough is enough.