Baton Rouge, LA – Baton Rouge Police Department leaders announced on Friday that they were firing Officer Blane Salamoni for the shooting death of Alton Sterling, according to Washington Post.
The officials said that Officer Blane Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake II violated policy for the shooting, which has been ruled justified by both the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Louisiana Attorney General.
Chief Murphy Paul said that Officer Salamoni violated use of force policies as well as policies for command of temper, according to WAFB.
Officer Lake will be suspended for three days.
The alleged policy violations against Officer Salamoni likely stem from him pointing his gun at Alton Sterling’s head and threatening to blow his “f***ing 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.
Following the announcement, WAFB reports that Chief Paul said, “Treat our police officers with the respect that their positions deserve, and I assure you that the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department will reciprocate the gesture. Please stop resisting. Stop running. When a police officer gives you direction, listen, follow his directives.”
Previously unreleased videos showing the shooting will be released on Friday.
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.
Footage from the Triple S convenience store showed Sterling as he sat smoking cigarettes and selling CD’s at the front of the business, one source told CNN.
The camera, which was positioned behind Sterling, captured him as he approached a man in the left-hand corner of the frame, and pointed what appeared to be a handgun at him. He then placed the object in the front right pocket of his pants.
One of the claims made by Black Lives Matter is that Sterling had just been selling CDs, and the report of him with a weapon was inaccurate. The video is set to dispel those claims.
Within minutes, Sterling could be seen as he conducted a transaction with a different individual. He removed the weapon from the front right pocket of his pants, and placed it in his waistband, while he retrieved money from the same pocket.
Sterling handed the cash to the man, then removed the gun from his waistband, and placed it back into the front right pocket of his pants once again.
According to the source, “within 10 seconds,” Sterling was seen “jokingly” making a shooting gesture with his hand in his right pocket, as if he was “pretending” to shoot him.
“Pow, pow, pow,” Sterling could be heard saying in the video.
Minutes later, as Sterling was engaged in a transaction with two women, Officer Howie Lake arrived at the scene.
He interrupted the exchange, and told Sterling to put his hands on a vehicle, but the man refused.
Officer Lake then tried to physically control Sterling’s hands in an effort to put them on the vehicle, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry explained on Tuesday.
Sterling was still resisting arrest when Officer Salamoni arrived to back up Officer Lake.
Landry said Sterling spun around and pulled his right hand away from Officer Salamoni, so the officer pulled his weapon and threatened to shoot Sterling if he did not comply.
Officer Salamoni’s bodycam showed him as he approached Sterling from behind, and ultimately pointed his gun at Sterling’s head, the source told CNN.
The threat was “momentarily effective,” Landry said.
Officer Lake attempted to grab the man’s left hand, while Officer Lake worked to grab his right hand, but Sterling again resisted.
“Put your hands on the f*****g car or I will blow your f*****g head off!” Officer Salamoni yelled twice, according to the CNN source.
“He’s got a gun!” Officer Salamoni was heard saying in the video.
Previously released cell phone footage showed the altercation from that point forward. Both officers’ bodycams were dislodged during the fight that ensued, and dashcam footage captured very little of the incident.
Officer Lake deployed his Taser, but it had little effect. Sterling momentarily fell to his knees but remained noncompliant, and tried to get back up again a moment later.
Officer Salamoni told Officer Lake to tase Sterling again, and he did – but the second deployment of the Taser had no effect on Sterling, Landry said.
At that point, Officer Salamoni holstered his weapon and tackled Sterling. They struggled on the ground with each officer trying to control one of Sterling’s arms.
“In discussing these events, we must be mindful of what I’m describing took place very quickly,” the attorney general reminded reporters, and said Sterling was “armed with a firearm and continuously resisting.”
In the videos reviewed by investigators, Officer Salamoni can be heard saying “he’s got a gun” and then “he’s going for the gun.”
Officer Salamoni fired three shots into Sterling’s chest and then rolled slightly away from him, “keeping his handgun trained on Mr. Sterling,” Landry said.
Sterling sat up and rolled to his left, away from Officer Salamoni.
“His hands and his right side appeared to be concealed from the view of both officers,” Landry explained.
Sterling tried to get up again and Officer Salamoni fired three additional shots into Sterling’s back.
Landry said that after the altercation, Officer Lake found a 38-caliber handgun in Sterling’s right front pocket.
At no point did either of the officers use racially-charged language towards Sterling, the sources told CNN.
On Tuesday, Landry announced that the officers’ use of force had been “well founded and reasonable under the circumstances and under Louisiana law,” and that the attempted lawful arrest of Sterling was based upon probable cause.
Sterling’s toxicology reports indicated that drugs were likely a contributing factor to Sterling resisting arrest.
The investigation concluded that “both officers acted in a reasonable and justifiable manner,” and that no charges would be filed against either officer.
Officer Salamoni and Officer Lake were also cleared of wrongdoing on May 3, 2017, following a federal investigation.
Federal use-of-force experts concluded that the officers used several less-lethal techniques to subdue Sterling before they resorted to force, and that Sterling actively resisted officers and refused to comply with their commands, CNN reported.
The four additional videos are set to be released Friday.