Police officer fired in Alton Sterling case

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

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Image Credit: PBS

The Louisiana police officer who fatally shot Alton Sterling outside a convenience store was terminated on Friday and a fellow officer was suspended for three days after violating department policies. Newly released videos of the incident depict the officer quickly escalating the volatile situation that left a black man dead for apparently selling bootleg CDs.

On July 5, 2016, a surveillance video recorded Sterling selling illegal CDs in a parking lot outside the Triple S convenience store in Baton Rouge. According to reports, Baton Rouge Police Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II were responding to a call that a man fitting Sterling’s description had been brandishing a gun.

The video from Salamoni’s recently released body camera shows Lake approaching Sterling and immediately ordering him to place his hands on a nearby vehicle. As Sterling asks the officer why, Salamoni grips the back of his head and aims his gun at him.

Salamoni repeatedly shouts, “Don’t fucking move or I’ll shoot your fucking head!”

After the officers slam Sterling onto the hood of a parked car, he places his right hand on the hood while Lake restrains his left arm. Instead of placing handcuffs on his wrists, both officers step back as Salamoni orders Lake to fire his Taser.

Sterling drops to his knees for a moment before standing up and pleading with outstretched arms and empty hands. Salamoni instantly tackles him into a parked SUV before slamming him against another vehicle and taking Sterling to the ground.

As both officers attempt to restrain Sterling, Salamoni begins searching his pockets when he shouts, “He’s got a gun!”

Although Lake immediately unholsters his gun and aims it Sterling, he does not fire any shots. While straddling Sterling, Salamoni aims his weapon at the man’s chest and fires six bullets into him.

With Sterling bleeding to death in the parking lot, Salamoni repeatedly calls him a “stupid motherfucker” while going through his pockets and ordering other officers not to bother handcuffing him.

According to a state report, Lake had found a .38-caliber handgun in Sterling’s pocket after the shooting. A toxicology report later found that Sterling’s blood had contained alcohol, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and THC.

Since the shooting, both officers have remained on paid administrative leave. In May 2017, the Justice Department declined to seek federal civil rights charges against the officers. On Tuesday, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that Salamoni and Lake would not be charged with state-level crimes.

On Friday, Chief Murphy Paul of the Baton Rouge Police Department fired Salamoni for violating the department’s use-of-force rules during Sterling’s arrest. Officer Lake was suspended for three days after violating department policies on sustaining “command of temper.”

“One officer attempted to use de-escalation and disengagement techniques consistent with policy and procedure and training,” Chief Paul stated. “And one officer did not follow the tactics, training, professionalism, and organizational standards.”

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

Despite the fact that bystanders recorded videos of Sterling’s death on their cellphones nearly two years ago, the police body cam footage from Salamoni and Lake’s cameras was not released until Friday, after state and federal officials both announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers.


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