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Baton Rouge police officer returns to work after Alton Sterling’s death

16th April 2018   ·   0 Comments

A Baton Rouge police officer who was involved in the July 5, 2016 killing of Alton Sterling returned to work earlier this month after the U.S. Department of Justice and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office declined to file charges against him and the Baton Rouge Police Department suspended him for three days for his role in the death of the 37-year-old Black man.

BRPD Officer Howie Lake II returned to work April 5 after completing his three-day suspension handed down to him on March 30 by Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul.

Lake’s partner, Officer Blane Salamoni, was terminated by the Baton Rouge Police Department on March 30, just three days after state Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that he would not file charges against the two officers. Salamoni fired six bullets into Alton Sterling, who was selling mixtape CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart in south Baton Rouge when the deadly incident occurred.

Salamoni, who was captured on BRPD body cam footage cussing out Sterling as he lay dying, reportedly cried at the news that he had been fired and called his termination the worst day of his life.

He has made it clear that he wants his job back and plans to take legal action to accomplish that aim.

The officer-involved killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castille near Minneapolis, Minn. just two days later led to nationwide protests and ultimately the killing of three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge and five cops in Dallas, Texas by two separate Black gunmen.

Officer Howie Lake II returned to work April 5 “with no restrictions,” said Sgt. Don Coppola, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Lake helped wrestle Sterling to the ground but did not fire his weapon that night.

Chief Paul said he fired Salamoni for violating department policies on use of force and “command of temper.” He suspended Lake for violating only the latter policy.

On March 30, the BRPD released graphic footage from the officers’ body cameras and the store’s surveillance camera.

In the body camera footage, an officer can be heard profanely shouting and insulting Sterling and at one point points a gun at his head and threatens to shoot him. Authorities have said Salamoni made that threat as he pointed his gun at Sterling.

Salamoni’s attorney, John McLindon, has said he intends to appeal the officer’s firing to a civil service board. Lake’s attorney, Kyle Kershaw, told The Associated Press that he doesn’t know if his client will challenge the suspension he has been served, but he has less than two weeks to decide.

“I’m waiting to hear back from him on that. I put the ball in his court,” Kershaw said of Lake.
Salamoni told an Internal Affairs investigator in September 2016 that he saw Sterling reach for and hold a gun in his pants pocket right before he shot him during their struggle on the ground.

After state AG Jeff Landry announced that he wound not file charges against the two officers, the NAACP said it would seek a special prosecutor to revisit the case to determine if charges are warranted after viewing the BRPD body cam footage.

This article originally published in the April 16, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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