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Fired cop who shot Alton Sterling wants his job back

9th April 2018   ·   0 Comments

NAACP seeks special prosecutor

Former BRPD Officer Blane Salamoni, one of the two officers involved in the July 5, 2016 fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, was terminated March 30 by Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul.

Salamoni, who fired six shots into Sterling, was fired just three days after state Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that he would not file charges against Salamoni or his partner, Howie Lake II.

Lake was given a three-day suspension.

“Officer Blane Salamoni has been terminated from the Baton Rouge Police Department,” announced BRPD Chief Murphy Paul.

Chief Paul said on March 30 that Salamoni, who reportedly refused to answer any questions during a BRPD hearing the final week of March, was fired for violating use of force and command of temper policies in the shooting death of Alton Sterling.

“My decision was not based on politics,” Chief Paul said at the March 30 news conference. “It was not based on emotions. It was based on the facts of the case.”

“Today, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul concluded his administrative investigation and has made a decision in the Alton Sterling case,” Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said in a statement released March 30.

“I have placed my trust in Chief Paul and fully support his decision,” she added. “I am grateful for his leadership and his swift, decisive, and fair action on this matter.

“Although the investigations into this case have concluded, the dialogue does not end today. I pledge to continue to lead and facilitate respectful conversations between the community and law enforcement in an effort to build trust and understanding on both sides.

“The backdrop of this Holy Weekend serves as an opportunity for our community to move toward collective healing,” Broome continued.

“While support and prayers for the Sterling family are encouraged, we know that these alone will not heal their family or our community. It is vital that lessons are learned from this tragedy and that we apply our knowledge to prevent future incidents and implement policies that make this community safer and more unified.”

Despite saying before the BRPD announced its decision to fire Salamoni that it was a “foregone conclusion” that it would happen, Salamoni’s attorney said his client, who was a four-year veteran at the time of the incident, was devastated by being terminated.

“He said that was the worst day of his life,” said Blane Salamoni’s attorney, John McLindon.

Salamoni’s attorney says his client cried when he heard the news on March 30.

“I don’t think termination was appropriate in this case,” McLindon said.

Now, Salamoni is appealing Chief Paul’s decision.

McLindon contends Salamoni did not lose his temper and his actions were justified.

“It was rapid. It was evolving and it was very tense,” he said. “He’s fired based on hindsight 20/20 judgment of what he did.”

McLindon says Salamoni yelled at Sterling and used profanities to get his attention.
“He’s trying to send a message to Alton Sterling. He raises his voice to say, ‘We’re not kidding around here, man,’” McLindon explained.

After Salamoni shot Sterling, McLindon says his client wasn’t cursing Sterling for being a bad person but for the actions that led up to his death.

“Basically saying, ‘Why did you make me do this? Why didn’t you just comply? If you had complied, I wouldn’t of had to do that,’” said McLindon.

During the disciplinary hearing, McLindon reportedly advised Salamoni not to answer any questions. He says he believed the decision had already been made to terminate Salamoni and giving a statement wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

“After the shooting, he gave a statement to homicide detectives, didn’t even have to do that. He could’ve pleaded the Fifth then. He gave an I.A. (Internal Affairs) statement. The chief had both of those statements,” McLindon said.

The Baton Rouge Police Union released a statement indicating a representative reviewed the evidence and the Union publicly stands behind Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake:

“Our police officers are faced with many complicated and highly intense situations. Accuracy gives real perspective. We look forward to a fair and impartial hearing with the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.”

Despite the DOJ and state Attorney General both announcing that charges would not be filed against the two officers, the release of BRPD body cam footage appears to have intensified the outrage surrounding the case and calls for justice.

Jamaal Weathersby, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, told WWL News on March 30 that it was disturbing to watch the BRPD body cam footage of the Alton Sterling shooting.

“It is hard to watch,” Weathersby said. “To see blood and to see that struggle, to hear the language… It was very, very difficult to watch that.

“It’s chilling,” he added. “It seemed unnecessary. It seemed that the officers who were called out to de-escalate the situation ultimately escalated the situation.”

L. Chris Stewart, an attorney representing two of Sterling’s five children, said the body-cam videos show that Officer Salamoni attacked Sterling without provocation “like a wild dog.”

“The most obvious thing that stands out is Alton wasn’t fighting back at all,” Stewart said. “He’s trying to diffuse it the whole time.”

Stewart told The Associated Press that the BRPD body-cam video footage shows a “truth” experienced by many Black men during encounters with police officers.

“What that truth is, is the silent complaint — or the loud one — of every Black person in the inner city who has to deal with an officer like Blane Salamoni,” he said. “You can clearly see there was no value placed on Alton Sterling’s life by Blane Salamoni.”

“What is so disturbing is the venom, profanity and aggression coming out of the mouth of Officer Blane Salamoni,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans business and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly Tuesday. “Salamoni looked and acted like a crazed and demented animal hell-bent on taking someone’s life and violating their constitutional rights.

“That’s not the way you talk to human beings or anyone if you are truly committed to protecting and serving the public and maintaining law and order,” he added. “And you just don’t treat human beings of any color or income bracket like that.”

Former Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand told WWL News March 30 that there were some things he viewed in the body cam footage that concerned him.

“Obviously the offensive language that was used, the fact that he (Officer Blane Salamoni) went lethal right away by pulling his gun without there being any aggressive motions or conduct by Alton Sterling,” Normand said.

Normand said he wasn’t surprised by BPRD Chief Murphy Paul’s decision to fire Salamoni.

“Once having seen the other two videos as it relates to that, I think that Chief Paul’s reaction and comments were appropriate,” Normand told WWL News.

Demonstrators backed by the NAACP held a rally April 2 at the office of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry after Landry announced that he would not file charges against Officers Lake and Salamoni.

Louisiana NAACP President Michael McClanahan told The Advocate that he wants Landry to appoint a special prosecutor in the 2016 shooting of Alton Sterling. Guards stopped the group of about 35 in the lobby Monday, where they sat down and ate lunch. McClanahan says protesters will return daily until Landry meets with them.

Landry’s spokeswoman, Ruth Wisher, declined comment.

This article originally published in the April 9, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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