Baton Rouge Police Chief Apologizes for Cop Who Killed Alton Sterling

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul apologized to the city and the family of Alton Sterling on behalf of the department for hiring the officer who fatally shot Sterling.

“We are sorry Baton Rouge. I want to apologize to the family of Alton Sterling and also to his kids," Paul said, WAFB reported. "We're sorry because he should have never been hired. And while we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future, and I sincerely apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in building barriers in communities of color in Baton Rouge.”

State officials decided not to file charges against the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of the 37-year-old man in March 2018. A few days after the decision, police fired Officer Blane Salamoni for violating the use of force policies during the fatal shooting. Salamoni repealed his firing but attorney Leo Hamilton announced at a press conference on August 1 that the former officer would not be able to receive any financial compensation or monetary compensation in the resolution. Hamilton also noted that Salamoni had a prior arrest on his record before he was hired as an officer for the Baton Rouge Police Department.

“Mr. Salamoni’s ill temperament and disregard of rules was evident before his employment with BRPD,” Hamilton said. "Mr. Salamoni failed to report he had such an arrest on his application to the police force."

In July 2016, Sterling was shot and killed by one of the two police officers who confronted him outside of a convenience store. Sterling’s death caused social media outrage after video showed that officers pinned him to the ground and shot him.

Following the press conference, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued a statement following the resolution between the department and Salamoni, stating it “had been a long time coming.” “First, let me say I stand behind our officers, men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our citizens,” the statement read. “However, our department no longer has room for individuals who can’t live up to its high standards or have shown a pattern of unprofessional behavior.”

On August 5, the attorneys representing Sterling's family released a complaint filed by the Emergency Management Services (EMS) employee stating that Salamoni denied medical attention to a shooting victim after they were shot.

The complaint was reportedly filed by an EMS first responder in 2014. The report obtained by the news station states that Salamoni delayed EMS personnel saving the shooting victim’s life, but the victim died. “Officer Salamoni was rude, demeaning, unprofessional and provoking,” the report reads. “He displayed no regard for the human being lying dying in the roadway. Never have I felt so demoralized and treated with such contempt by anyone with BRPD.”

The employee who filed the complaint said EMS and firefighters arrived to the scene after Salamoni told them the patient had died, the complaint obtained by the news station read. A paramedic checked the patient and stated that he was “still breathing and moving.” First responders were reportedly “stunned at incidents wondering why they were told the patient had expired."

“The victim of the shooting was left in the street shaking and gasping for air with no one running to his aid due to the misinformation provided by scene controls,” the complaint stated.

The family’s attorney’s also acknowledged Chief Paul statement, stating that it took “strength” and “courage” to apologize for the incident, even though he was not in charge during the time of Sterling’s death. “It’s one of the first times I’ve seen a police chief step up nationally and take responsibility for the actions of his officer, even though he was not in command at the time,” attorney Chris L. Stewart said. “He apologized to the family, to the community. That takes strength, that takes courage, and he should be commended for that. He showed that this should have never happened. He said there were many opportunities for BRPD to hold him accountable. He never should have been hired. He should have been reprimanded time after time.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.