Sen. Tim Scott would not comment on whether he thinks the Department of Justice was not right in its decision to not bring federal charges against two police officers responsible for killing Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Justice Department last week announced it was ending a ten-month investigation, saying it found “insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges” against Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, II. Its report said Salamoni and Lake had attempted to use less lethal methods to subdue Sterling; that they reasonably believed that he had a gun (he was unarmed); and that given Sterling’s relative size, he also “appeared to pose a threat because he was still moving and his right hand was not visible to Officer Salamoni.”
Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, is one of the Senate’s most outspoken voice on policing, race relations and the need for more trust between police departments and the communities.
Asked by BuzzFeed News whether he agreed with, or could at least accept the decision, Scott told BuzzFeed News only that the Justice Department’s decision was “a rough one,” saying he would comment further through an aide because he hadn't researched the case enough.
Reached by BuzzFeed News, the aide took questions, but didn't respond to that line of inquiry or to an additional email seeking comment.
Scott had tweeted about the Sterling case at the time of the shooting.
Scott’s mix of racially-conscious conservatism has earned him both lofty status in black Republican circles and a national profile. In the past, Scott garnered headlines with personal testimony to his colleagues and the country about his experience as a black senator. “I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself,” he said.
On one occasion, Scott was said he was confronted by a Capitol Police officer who told him, “The pin, I know. You, I don’t.” The proceeding apology from a supervisor was the third such call he'd received since arriving in the Senate, he said.
Scott supported Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ nomination to the top law enforcement post defending him against charges of racism that have followed Sessions throughout his entire career. In a passionate testimony, he said that a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King criticizing Sessions should have been read, but argued that he took his endorsement of Sessions seriously, in part, because of his blackness and tenuous relations between blacks and law enforcement.
“I have much personal respect for Senator Scott,” said Justin Bamberg, Esq., a South Carolina state representative and attorney for the Sterling family. “However, at a time when law enforcement-citizen relations in this country are on edge, I hope that he and other political leaders in our country are giving this issue the attention it truly needs. We are talking about the unnecessary loss of American lives — not abroad but right here at home. Congress cannot address that to which it turns a blind eye.”