La. Cop Cleared in Alton Sterling Death Charged for Slapping Handcuffed Man
It was less than two months ago that Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salamoni was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed after cops confronted him in front of a convenience store selling CDs in 2016.
But the Baton Rouge Police Department decided to fire him anyway for policy violations, which naturally meant he filed an appeal because firing cops for policy violations apparently violates the Officers' Bill of Rights.
However, the Baton Rouge Police Department just charged him with simple battery, a misdemeanor stemming from an incident caught on body cam in June 2016, less than a month before he shot and killed Sterling.
Considering this is an old incident that is just now coming to light, it is obvious the Baton Rouge Police Department is trying to do the best it can to keep Salamoni from returning, which means he should soon pop up in any of the other law enforcement agencies in Louisiana.
That is, if he doesn't end up getting rehired by Baton Rouge police anyway, which is never out of the question despite how many questionable incidents he has committed in the past.
The incident in question is minor compared to what we usually see from cops on a daily basis and it is especially minor compared to the Sterling shooting, so he should have no problem beating the charges by claiming he was fearing for his safety.
After all, that line worked perfectly during the Sterling investigation despite video evidence indicating the cops needlessly escalated the incident.
Salamoni shot and killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, during a struggle outside a convenience store on July 5, 2016. State and federal authorities ruled out criminal charges against Salamoni and a second officer involved in the deadly confrontation.
But the police department says it found evidence of a crime -- as well as other profanity-laced unprofessional conduct -- when it reviewed body camera footage from four other incidents involving Salamoni. All four of those incidents occurred in June 2016.
Last month, Police Chief Murphy Paul fired Salamoni and suspended a second white officer who also struggled with Sterling but didn't fire his weapon that night.
Salamoni and the other officer, Howie Lake II, both appealed their discipline earlier this month. Salamoni is asking a civil service board to reinstate him.
Brant Mayer, one of Salamoni's lawyers, said his client received the summons last Friday. Mayer said he believes police officials are using the battery case to influence Salamoni's appeal. He said the police department apparently has known about the body camera video of the incident for nearly two years.
Last month, after the Louisiana attorney general cleared Salamoni of any wrongdoing in the Sterling shooting, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul terminated him.
In the chief's termination letter, which was attached to Salamoni's petition for appeal, Paul told the officer he failed to follow department policies for command of temper and use of force. The chief specifically pointed to Salamoni's actions when he arrived on the scene, just seconds after Lake had approached Sterling and found the man noncompliant.
Salamoni and Lake responded to a 911 call on July 5, 2016, about a man selling CDs outside a convenience store on North Foster Drive who had threatened someone with a gun. After a brief struggle lasting less than 90 seconds, Salamoni fired six shots into Sterling's body almost immediately after yelling that Sterling had a gun in his pocket. Two cellphone videos that captured portions of the encounter between the black man and two white officers were widely shared on social media, prompting nationwide protests in 2016.
"You immediately unholstered your weapon, pointed it at Sterling and stated 'I'll shoot your f****** ass bitch, '" Paul wrote in the disciplinary letter. "You then placed the weapon against Mr. Sterling's head, and shouted 'Don't you f****** move. I'm going to shoot you in your f****** head. You hear me? Don't you f****** move!'
"Rather than calm the situation, this escalated the encounter," Paul told Salamoni.
The chief also referenced Salamoni's language throughout the encounter, including that he "repeatedly directed profanity after the shooting, saying 'F*** it, just let him be,' and 'Stupid motherf*****' and 'Stupid ass motherf*****.'"
Paul's letter lays out the progression of events leading up to Sterling's death, including Lake's unsuccessful use of a stun gun and Salamoni's subsequent decision to tackle Sterling as well as his statements warning Lake that Sterling had a gun. Paul notes that Sterling was "non-compliant and resistant" and "continued to disobey (Salamoni's) commands" during the encounter. Paul also pointed out that after the tackle, both Salamoni and Sterling were partly "underneath a vehicle, making the situation more difficult to control."
In three of the incidents reviewed, the department found Salamoni used "profanity and demonstrated unprofessional behavior," according to the statement. In the fourth incident from June 10, 2016, the department found evidence to initiate a criminal investigation into Salamoni's conduct after finding he slapped a suspect "in the head while he was laying on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back."
The department also released video of the June 10, 2016 incident from Salamoni's body cameras showing show the pursuit of the suspect, Deandre Brooks, and his interaction with police — including the slap and his later arrest.
Baton Rouge Police officials became aware of Salamoni's body camera footage from those four incidents in a March meeting with the U.S. Attorney's Office, during which federal investigators shared their knowledge of the videos, according to the BRPD statement. The U.S. Attorney's Office first reviewed the footage months ago during its investigation into alleged federal civil rights violations by Salamoni and officer Howie Lake II, the other officer involved in the shooting of Sterling. The Department of Justice declined to pursue those charges in May 2017.