Police officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling at close range has been fired

Officer Blane Salamoni won't be criminally charged
March 30, 2018, 10:11pm

The Baton Rouge police officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling during an 2016 encounter outside a convenience store has been fired, the department announced Friday evening alongside the release of several graphic videos from the encounter.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said Friday afternoon that Officer Blane Salamoni, who shot Sterling multiple times at close range, was sacked following a disciplinary hearing. Salamon's partner, Howie Lake, was suspended for three days. Both officers have indicated they plan to appeal the decision, Paul said.

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During the announcement, the department also released disturbing body camera footage from the incident.

Sterling died after he was shot multiple times outside a convenience store, where he was being held down by the two officers. He was armed at the time, and one of the officers said he decided to use lethal force when he saw Sterling reach for the gun. But Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the Triple S convenience store where Sterling was selling CDs at the time police were called, filmed the encounter, and says that he never saw Sterling reach for his gun.

"Don't fucking move or I'll shoot your fucking ass, bitch," Salamoni can be heard saying moments before shooting Sterling. Later, as Sterling lay dying, Salamoni repeatedly called him a "stupid motherfucker," the video shows.

Paul launched an administrative investigation into incident after Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Tuesday that the two officers involved would not face charges.

“Fear cannot be a driver for an officer’s response to every incident,” said Paul. “Unreasonable fear within an officer is dangerous.”

Paul said that the hearings for Salamoni and Lake were convened separately. Both were represented by an attorney and a union representative. Lake was given a three-day suspension, Paul announced Friday.

“Officer Lake answered all of the questions that were presented during the hearing,” said Paul. ‘On the advice of his attorney, Officer Salamoni chose not to answer any of our questions.”

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Paul also addressed the officers of Baton Rouge directly, and said he planned to meet with each of them one-on-one in the coming weeks to explain how he reached the decision to fire Salamoni.

“It’s important because some people are gonna tell you that I don’t have your back. Some people are gonna tell you that because I believe in reform — which means change — that I don’t support law enforcement,” said Paul. “All lies. Simply not the truth. I have your back. I support you. I appreciate what you do every day. We all do. My decision was not based on politics. It was not based on emotions. It was based on the facts of the case:”

Landry, the state's Attorney General, said Tuesday that said that after a “thorough and exhaustive review of the facts,” his office was declining to proceed with the prosecution of Officers Howie Lake or Salamoni. “Our investigation concluded that Officers Lake and Salamoni attempted to make a lawful arrest of Alton Sterling with probable cause,” Landry said.

Cell phone video footage of Sterling’s death went viral amid a spate of high-profile police killings during the summer of 2016. The following day, Philando Castile, another black man, was shot and killed by police in St. Paul, Minnesota, during a routine traffic stop, and the two incidents triggered renewed national protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

“We respect everyone’s right to protest. I wouldn’t be standing here if that wasn’t the case,” Paul said when asked how his department would respond in the event of future protests. “Just do it peacefully, and we’ll do what we can to make sure its safe. This is the healing process. This is over. There’s no more criminal investigation.”

In April 2017, the Justice Department announced that they would not pursue federal civil rights charges against the officers involved in Sterling’s death.

Civil and human rights groups condemned the decision to let the officers off the hook for Sterling’s death. “The decision of the Louisiana Department of Justice is a reflection of the urgent need to review both state and federal laws governing when and how police should use deadly force,” wrote Amnesty International USA in a statement. “Neither Louisiana, nor any other US state, complies with international standards that maintain deadly force can only be used when there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury.”

Cover image: BATON ROUGE, LA - JULY 21: A makeshift memorial for the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling is displayed outside the Triple S Food Mart next to a mural of Sterling July 21, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was fatally wounded outside the Triple S Food Mart on July 5 by a Baton Rouge police officer who was responding to a dispatch call of a man with a gun. Local communities are also reeling in the aftermath of the recent killings of three police officers who were ambushed along Baton Rouge's Airline Highway Sunday. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)