Baton Rouge officials announced this week that the city has reached a settlement with Blane Salamoni, a former officer in its police department who fatally shot Alton Sterling in 2016.

The shooting, captured on cellphone video, added Sterling to a long list of recognizable names of people who have died at the hands of police.

After lengthy reviews of the case, state and federal officials declined to prosecute Salamoni in Sterling’s death. In March 2018, the officer was fired from the Baton Rouge Police Department by its newly hired chief, Murphy Paul.

But Salamoni appealed to the local civil service board, and this week the city settled — agreeing to retract his firing and retroactively allow him to resign without compensation or back pay.

Paul and the police department’s lawyer announced the settlement Thursday at a news conference, explaining that they still believe Salamoni’s firing was justified.

Under the settlement, Salamoni agreed to withdraw his appeal to a local board that reviews disciplinary decisions for city police and firefighters, the Advocate reported. Had the board heard the appeal, it could possibly have given him his job back.

The police chief emphasized that Salamoni would never work for Baton Rouge’s police department again — and apologized that his predecessors had hired the officer in the first place.

“I want to apologize to the family of Alton Sterling and also to his kids,” Paul said. “We’re sorry, because he
should’ve never been hired.”

Salamoni shot and killed Sterling in July 2016 outside a convenience store. Authorities had received a call after midnight that a man was selling CDs near the store and that he had a gun. Bystander video of the incident showed Salamoni and another officer, Howie Lake, trying to detain Sterling.

The officers pinned him down on the ground and held his arms. Someone yelled that he had a gun, and Salamoni fired several times.

At the news conference Thursday, Paul said Salamoni’s actions that night were the culmination of a pattern of “unprofessional behavior, police violence, marginalization, polarization and implicit bias by a man who should have never ever wore this uniform.”

The police department’s lawyer, Leo Hamilton, said Salamoni regularly used profanity and unnecessary force on the job, and that his officer colleagues had raised concerns about his behavior. In one instance, an altercation between Salamoni and another officer made a third officer uncomfortable enough that he said if something wasn’t done, Salamoni could “eventually kill someone.”

“Baton Rouge, we are sorry,” Paul said. “We’re sorry for our failure not to discipline an officer who demonstrated unprofessional behavior and violated our code of conduct consistently, escalating incidents. We’re sorry, Baton Rouge.”

During the news conference, Paul emphasized that the police department is made of “honorable men and women” who are committed to “healing and to safety.”

“While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future,” Paul said. “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 the city of Baton Rouge.”

Salamoni’s lawyer, John McLindon, told the Associated Press they were happy with the settlement, despite feeling they had a good chance at winning the officer’s job back had his appeal to the local civil service board gone to a hearing. McLindon told the AP that the two discussed the possible outcomes and questioned whether reinstatement was even what Salamoni wanted.

McLindon called the police chief’s comments about Salamoni “inappropriate,” the AP reported.

"It’s very unfortunate that the chief presented a lot of extraneous accusations. … What the chief did was not in the spirit of compromise,” McLindon told the Advocate. “The idea was for both sides to bring closure to the city, and he unfortunately made a bunch of inflammatory remarks.”

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