Hillary Clinton issued a one-paragraph statement on Wednesday night lamenting Sterling's death and praising the Justice Department's decision to investigate, then posted the following on Thursday:
But libertarian candidate Gary Johnson may have just raised the bar for how presidential candidates respond to police shootings. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Johnson used the word "murder" to describe the police killing of Sterling.
“If there was no display of a gun, if he didn’t have it in his hand … if his hand wasn’t being suppressed, I don’t get it. I mean, that’s murder," Johnson said, referring to the claim that Sterling had reached for a gun in his pocket. Video of the shooting calls into question the claim that Sterling grabbed for a weapon, and police have declined to say whether he even had a gun on him at the time of his death.
Politicians normally avoid using words like "murder" to describe police killings because it implies a legal determination that a crime was committed.
Libertarians like Johnson are often critical of police officers' frequent use of lethal force. He stopped short, though, of endorsing a national standard for use of force. Instead he told BuzzFeed that he would prefer "highlighting a police force in a given city that has the least amount of shootings" and using those practices as a "model" for the rest of the country.