Baton Rouge Officer Is Fired in Alton Sterling Case; Another Is Suspended


The chief’s announcement was expected to bring a modicum of relief to activists and Mr. Sterling’s family members, who have grown increasingly frustrated after the state and federal decisions.

The decision also comes amid tension and protests over another police shooting in Sacramento. Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, was shot at more than 20 times by the police in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18. A private autopsy commissioned by Mr. Clark’s family and released Friday found that eight bullets had struck him, and that his death took three to 10 minutes, raising questions about why he did not receive medical care more quickly.

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Police Chief Murphy Paul of Baton Rouge, La., announcing disciplinary decision for the two officers who shot Alton Sterling in 2016. His action came after the Justice Department and Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, declined to seek charges.

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Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Part of Mr. Sterling’s fatal encounter in Baton Rouge was captured in a widely seen cellphone video, in which the officers can be seen holding down Mr. Sterling. At one point someone can be heard saying, “He’s got a gun! Gun!”

An officer immediately draws his weapon and, after some more shouting, what appear to be gunshots ring out. The camera points elsewhere, and more apparent gunshots follow. Officer Salamoni fired all of the rounds.

A state report noted that Officer Lake had found a .38-caliber handgun in Mr. Sterling’s pocket after the shooting. The report also included the results of a toxicology test, which said Mr. Sterling’s blood contained alcohol, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine and THC. The amount of methamphetamine, the report said, was associated with “abusers who exhibited violent and irrational behavior.”

Mr. Sterling resisted officers’ commands to place his hands on a car; at one point, as they struggled, Officer Salamoni drew his handgun and told Mr. Sterling, using expletives, not to move, or he would shoot him in the head.

Officer Lake used his Taser on Mr. Sterling twice, but the shocks did not end the altercation.

The two officers may now appeal their punishments to a civil service board, which will hold public proceedings and uphold, vacate or modify the punishments. The officers may then appeal to a state district court.

Sharon Weston Broome, the mayor of Baton Rouge, has said publicly that she would like to see Officer Salamoni fired and Officer Lake disciplined. Ms. Broome, who was elected in 2016, pledged during her campaign that she would replace the police chief, fulfilling that promise late last year with the announcement of Mr. Paul’s appointment.

Lawyers for the two officers are almost certain in the appeals process to seize on the mayor’s statements calling for the discipline of the officers, and argue that the punishments were a foregone conclusion, said Henry D.H. Olinde, a Baton Rouge lawyer with significant experience with civil service cases.

“The question’s going to be, did the mayor’s declaration in any way influence the decision of the police chief?” he said.

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