Baton Rouge police officer who shot Alton Sterling fired; videos released

Posted at 5:32 PM, Mar 30, 2018

Baton Rouge Police Officer Blane Salamoni has been fired for violating use-of-force polices in the Alton Sterling shooting, Chief Murphy Paul told reporters Friday evening while also releasing four videos, several of which graphically show Sterling as he lay dying.

Paul said Howie Lake II, the other officer involved in the July 2016 incident, will be suspended for three days without pay for losing his temper during the incident.

The four videos that were released include a convenience store surveillance video, two police-worn body camera videos and a video recorded by the dashboard camera in one of the police cars.

Salamoni pulled his gun seconds after arriving to help Officer Howie Lake search Sterling, according to his body camera video. Ten seconds into the video, as Sterling questions why the officers are trying to detain him, Salamoni shouts, “Don’t f—– move or I’ll shoot your f—- a–. Put your f—— hands on the car.”

The video shows Salamoni’s gun very close to the right side of Sterling’s head as Sterling protests that someone is hurting his arm. Lake twice uses a Taser on Sterling, then Salamoni rushes Sterling and the video gets erratic as they go to the ground. The shooting is heard but not visible in the video.

Video from Lake’s body camera shows the officer approaching Sterling, trying to get him to put his hands on the hood of a car, and eventually struggling with him on the ground. During the altercation, another person, presumably Salamoni, screams, “He’s got a gun!” and soon thereafter gunshots are heard.

When the officers get up, Sterling is lying on the ground outside the front door of the convenience store with a blood-soaked red shirt.

The gun is not visible in the video but Lake tells another officer he put it in his car. The officers had been responding to a call about a man with a gun. The call was from a homeless man who said that after he approached Sterling for money, Sterling showed him the weapon.

Police have said a .38 caliber handgun was found at the scene.

CNN is reviewing the other videos.

The two officers had separate disciplinary hearings Thursday night. Paul said Salamoni chose not to answer any questions at his disciplinary hearing. Lake answered every question, the chief said.

Salamoni will appeal, attorney John McLindon said.

“Blane understands that he’s not going to be a Baton Rouge police officer again,” McLindon said. “He wants to more or less clear his name and have a higher authority say what he did was consistent with your training and the law.”

Family attorney: Sterling was just asking what he had done

When asked what he would say to the Sterling family, the police chief said: “They are in our prayers. …. I hope this brings some closure to them.”

L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Sterling family, said the videos show Salamoni came at Sterling like “a pit bull and immediately escalated the entire situation.”

Sterling didn’t threaten or put a hand on the officers, Stewart said. He just kept asking Salamoni and Lake what he had done.

“Never once pushed an officer, touched an officer, kicked an officer, did anything,” Stewart said. “But yet he ended up dead.”

McLindon said that if Sterling had complied with officers, “none of this would have happened.”

No state or federal charges

State authorities announced this week that Salamoni was justified in shooting Sterling outside the Baton Rouge convenience store, and that no charges would be brought against him or Lake.

The fatal encounter between the two white police officers and Sterling, a black man, helped spur renewed Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.

Previously released cell phone video showed Sterling, 37, pinned to the ground by the officers before he was shot.

Police said they believed Sterling was reaching for a gun. The Justice Department said in May that evidence couldn’t prove or disprove that Sterling was reaching for a weapon, and that Sterling had a loaded gun in his pocket.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry released a report Tuesday concluding the shooting was justified.

Bystanders’ videos grabbed attention

The killing gripped the nation in part because two videos taken by bystanders, each less than a minute long, were released publicly shortly after the shooting and captured the final part of Sterling’s struggle with the two white officers.

Authorities have said Salamoni and Lake went there after police received a 911 call from a man who said someone had pulled a gun on him.

In May, federal prosecutors found there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant civil rights charges against Salamoni and Lake.

The federal prosecutors cited use-of-force experts who determined the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances — including that the two employed several less-than-lethal techniques before using force, and that Sterling struggled with the officers and failed to follow orders.

The Justice Department also said evidence couldn’t prove or disprove Salamoni’s assertion that Sterling was reaching for a gun.

Landry, the state attorney general, said Tuesday that Sterling had illicit drugs in his system.

“Considering this, it is reasonable that Mr. Sterling was under the influence, and that contributed to his noncompliance,” Landry said.

An autopsy indicated Sterling had cocaine, methamphetamine, hydrocodone, a marijuana ingredient, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in his blood.

Sterling’s five children filed a wrongful death lawsuit in June against the city of Baton Rouge, the police department and others.