There’s a strong chance no one beyond Baton Rouge, Louisiana, would know of Alton Sterling’s death if it weren’t for a convenience-store owner wary of police and a former gangster nicknamed Silky Slim.
But because of these two men, in one video, the world watched the view from inside a car at the Triple S convenience store’s parking lot as officers tackled Sterling to the ground. Then the second video, from a different angle only a few feet away, showed the officers stick a gun in the 37-year-old man’s chest and shoot him several times; it cut out shortly after one officer rolls off Sterling’s bleeding body. The second video came from the store’s owner, Abdullah Muflahi, who knew Sterling for years and let him sell CDs on the property. The first video, the one that caused the initial wave of outrage, came from a group, founded by Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, that chases police-scanner chatter.
Reed, his bio says, grew up on the outskirts of Baton Rouge near the Mississippi River. In the 1980s, he became involved with gangs, work that ultimately landed him in prison. After he was released, Reed was in a car crash that killed everyone but him, which he took as a sign from God to change his life. Reed’s nonprofit, Stop The Violence, Inc., began as a way to dissuade young people from gang violence. One program he developed puts volunteers in cars with police scanners that help them find shootings––or, as was the case Tuesday, confrontations that could lead to shootings. Reed’s group then strings the footage together in hopes the images will scare young people away from gangs.