Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul apologized on behalf of the department for hiring the officer who killed Alton Sterling, the 37-year-old black man whose July 2016 death spurred protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We are sorry Baton Rouge. I want to apologize to the family of Alton Sterling and also to his kids,” Chief Paul said, according to CNN affiliate WAFB.
“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,” said Paul, who joined the department in January 2018.
In March 2018, state officials decided not to file criminal charges against the two officers involved in Sterling’s fatal shooting, saying their actions were justified. But days later, police fired Officer Blane Salamoni for violating use of force policies when he shot Sterling.
Salamoni had appealed his firing, but Paul announced Thursday that they reached a resolution that would keep Salamoni from ever working with the department.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said Salamoni will not receive monetary compensation in the resolution.
“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,” Weston Broome said. “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.”
Leo Hamilton, an attorney for the Baton Rouge Police Department, said Thursday that Salamoni had a history of misbehavior prior to Sterling’s shooting.
“What became apparent from all the evidence presented to the chief was that Mr. Salamoni had a propensity for acting outside of the standards established by the BRPD for command of temper and use of force,” he said.
Hamilton said Salamoni regularly shouted profanities and abused individuals with unnecessary uses of force, as he did in the Sterling incident. Salamoni’s ill temperament caused “blow ups” with other officers, including one with a ranking officer, Hamilton said. Another officer told their superior that if something weren’t done about Salamoni, he could kill somebody, according to Hamilton.
Hamilton also said that Salamoni had previously been arrested for his involvement in a physical altercation or domestic abuse incident prior to joining the police, which would have kept him from being accepted to the force.
Salamoni’s attorney, John McLindon, said he was very disappointed in the chief’s “inflammatory” remarks.
“The chief did not help out the city very much with his comments. It was irresponsible of him to apologize,” he said.
He said that Salamoni was going to win the appeal but that he just wanted to move on. McLindon also said Salamoni has the option to be a police officer elsewhere if he wants.
“If he ever wanted to get back into law enforcement, he can. I’m not sure if he will,. But that option is always there,” he said.
What the Sterling videos showed
Salamoni’s official departure comes more than three years after Sterling was shot and killed outside a convenience store.
Surveillance video from the Triple S Convenience store shows Sterling selling DVDs outside and packing up his goods as Officer Howie Lake II arrives and confronts him.
When Salamoni arrives to help Lake, he pulls his gun seconds later, according to his body camera video. Ten seconds into the video, as Sterling questions why the officers are trying to detain him, Salamoni shouts, “Don’t f—– move or I’ll shoot your f—- a–. Put your f—— hands on the car.”
Video from Lake’s body camera shows the officer approaching Sterling, trying to get him to put his hands on the hood of a car, and eventually struggling with him on the ground. During the altercation, another person, presumably Salamoni, screams, “He’s got a gun!” and soon thereafter gunshots are heard.
A gun is not visible in the video, but Lake tells another officer he put it in his car. The officers had been responding to a call from a homeless man who said Sterling showed him a weapon after he approached Sterling for money. Police have said a .38-caliber handgun was found at the scene.
Federal investigators found insufficient evidence to file civil rights charges against the officers in May 2017, and state investigators similarly did not file charges 10 months later.
CNN’s Nick Valencia contributed to this report.