Baton Rouge, LA – The family of Alton Sterling has agreed to accept a $4.5 million settlement from the city, five years after he was fatally shot by police while resisting arrest.
The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted in February to extend the offer to Sterling’s family to settle the wrongful death civil lawsuit that was about to go to trial, even though the shooting had twice been ruled justified.
Sterling, 37, was shot by Baton Rouge Police Officer Blane Salamoni on July 5, 2016, after police received a 911 call from a man who said someone had pulled a gun on him.
Officer Salamoni’s use of deadly force against Sterling was previously ruled justified both by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Louisiana Attorney General.
“In discussing these events, we must be mindful of what I’m describing took place very quickly,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry told reporters in 2018.
Sterling was “armed with a firearm and continuously resisting,” after officers attempted to lawfully arrest him, Landry added.
Sterling was shot after grabbing the gun in his pocket as officers fought to stop him from murdering them.
Toxicology reports indicated that drugs were likely a contributing factor to Sterling resisting arrest, according to the attorney general.
The state of Louisiana’s investigation came to the same conclusion that the U.S. Department of Justice had, and ruled that “both officers acted in a reasonable and justifiable manner.”
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul fired Officer Salamoni within days of Landry’s announcement that the fatal shooting was justified.
Officer Lake was only suspended for three days, The New York Times reported.
The chief alleged that Officer Salamoni violated use-of-force policies, as well as policies for command of temper.
The alleged policy violations against Officer Salamoni likely stemmed from him pointing his gun at Sterling’s head and threatening to blow his “f–king head off” as Sterling was resisting arrest.
At the time, Officer Salamoni knew that he was dealing with a suspect who was reported to be armed with a gun.
The former officer appealed his termination, and later concurred with a settlement agreement that replaced his firing with a formal resignation, Chief Paul announced on August 1, according to The Advocate.
Chief Paul apologized to the community afterwards and said that Salamoni should never have been hired by the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD).
“I want to apologize to the family of Alton Sterling and also to his kids,” the chief said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re sorry because he [Salamoni] should’ve never been hired.”
Chief Paul claimed that Salamoni had a well-documented pattern of “unprofessional behavior, police violence, marginalization, polarization and implicit bias,” and that he “should have never ever wore this uniform.”
“Baton Rouge, we are sorry,” the chief continued, according to The Washington Post. “We’re sorry for our failure not to discipline an officer who demonstrated unprofessional behavior and violated our code of conduct consistently, escalating incidents. We’re sorry, Baton Rouge.”
Salamoni’s parents both served with BRPD for many decades, and Chief Paul refused to comment about whether or not their high-ranking roles in the department had anything to do with how supposed allegations of misconduct against the now-former officer were handled, The Advocate reported.
In 2017, Sterling’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that Officer Salamoni exemplified the longstanding, department-wide racist culture and excessive force of BRPD.
Attorneys for the family said after the $4.5 settlement was announced that they were happy that the police department had made significant policy changes since Sterling’s death, The New York Times reported.
“Our hope is that these policy changes, which focus on de-escalation, providing verbal warnings prior to using deadly force and prohibiting officers from both using chokeholds and firing into moving vehicles, will ensure that no other family has to endure the trauma and heartbreak that Mr. Sterling’s family went through,” the lawyers said.