Louisiana officers in Alton Sterling's shooting will not be charged: reports

BATON ROUGE, La., May 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department will not charge two white police officers who fatally shot a black man at close range in Louisiana last year, sparking nationwide protests, the New York Times and Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Department of Justice officials were not immediately available for comment. The decision is set to focus attention on new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his approach to civil rights after a series of deadly encounters across the nation in recent years have stoked debate over policing and minorities.

Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was killed after being confronted by two Baton Rouge officers on July 5, 2016, outside a convenience store where he sold CDs. The incident was caught on video.

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Alton Sterling shooting case -- tributes, funeral and protests
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Alton Sterling shooting case -- tributes, funeral and protests
Mourners pay their respects as they attend the funeral of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
BATON ROUGE, LA -JULY 06: protesters gather in front of a mural painted on the wall of the convenience store where Alton Sterling was shot and killed, July 6, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was shot by a police officer in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, July 5, leading the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Na'Quincy, 10, son of Alton Sterling, looks back at his father's grave as he leaves Alton's burial, at the Mount Pilgrim Benevolent Society Cemetery with Na'Qunicy's grandmother (R), whose name was withheld in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Gerald Herbert/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATHStill images from video show Alton Sterling as he is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 5, 2016. Video taken July 5, 2016. Abdullah Muflahi/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. TEMPLATE OUT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
BATON ROUGE, LA -JULY 06: Protesters block the intersection in front of the convenience store where Alton Sterling was shot and killed, July 6, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was shot by a police officer in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, July 5. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Pall bearers carry the casket of Alton Sterling to his gravesite at the Mount Pilgrim Benevolent Society Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Gerald Herbert/Pool
Tia, a student, poses for a picture in front of a convenience store where Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Penney TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pall bearers touch the casket of Alton Sterling after placing the casket at the internment site at the Mount Pilgrim Benevolent Society Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Gerald Herbert/Pool
A woman holds a sign reading "No justice, no peace," as she protests the killing of Alton Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Penney
Cameron Sterling is consoled after the funeral of his father Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A mourner is carried after the funeral of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
People take part in a protest against the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during a march through Manhattan, with the Empire State Building seen in the background, in New York July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz
A trike hearse carrying the casket of Alton Sterling arrives for burial at the Mount Pilgrim Benevolent Society Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Gerald Herbert/Pool
Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sandra Sterling, aunt of Alton Sterling, mourns as she attends the funeral of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
An inmate with the Louisiana Department of Corrections pays his respects during the funeral of Alton Sterling, who was shot dead by police, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
A demonstrator holds a bible at the Triple S convenience store where Alton Sterling was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: Demonstrators lock arms as they march from The White House to Capitol Hill on July 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. Protestors gathered in Washington to protest the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Curt Wechsler holds up a sign denouncing the killing of Philander Castile and Alton Sterling during a rally at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, California on July 08, 2016. About 1000 people showed support during a rally and march along Market Street denouncing recent police shootings around the country. The gunman who opened fire on Dallas officers during a protest against US police brutality, leaving five dead and seven others wounded, told negotiators he wanted to kill white cops, the city's police chief said July 8. / AFP / Josh Edelson (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UK - JULY 9: A protestor seen holding a placard with the words 'Black Lives Matter' at Windrush Square. Hundreds of Londoners convined in Brixton for a solidarity march following the shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police in New Orleans and Minnesota respectively. The protest march on 9 July 2016 began at at Windrush Square in Brixton, South London. Todate about 509 people have been shot and killed by police in 2016 in America this year so far. (Photo by David Mbiyu/Corbis via Getty Images)
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It was unclear how and when the department would announce its findings, the Washington Post reported, citing four people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers for the Sterling family said they had not been informed of a decision. Lawyer Chris Stewart said in a phone interview he was traveling to Baton Rouge to be with the family and had been promised an in-person meeting with Justice Department lawyers before any official announcement.

There were plans for a vigil on Tuesday night at the Triple S Food Mart, the convenience store where Sterling was killed, activists said. The schedule was put together before the newspapers reported a decision had been made on charges.

The executive director of the national racial justice organization, Color of Change, slammed the Justice Department on Tuesday over the reported no charges.

Outrage over the shooting last summer was stoked by cellphone video footage, captured by bystanders. Protests escalated a day after the Louisiana shooting when a Minnesota police officer fatally shot another black man at a traffic stop, and his girlfriend streamed video on social media.

Tensions escalated as demonstrations were organized nationally. At a protest on July 7, 2016 in Dallas, Texas, five law enforcement officers were fatally shot by a black, former U.S. serviceman.

More violence soon followed in Sterling's hometown in Baton Rouge, where law enforcement officers in riot gear arrested protestors decrying what they said was the unjust treatment of minorities by police.

Three Baton Rouge police officers died on July 17 in what officials called a calculated attack by a black former Marine, killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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