“This settlement, which was reached through hard work and collaboration between attorneys for Mr. Sterling’s family and the Baton Rouge City Council, will allow the city to heal and provide a pathway for Mr. Sterling’s children to be provided for financially,” the attorneys said.
The agreement comes after months of wrangling over what the city would offer the family. The city’s governing body, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metropolitan Council, rejected three settlement offers before greenlighting the final figure. In November, the council nixed a proposed $5 million settlement offer, falling one vote short of approval. Officials passed the $4.5 million offer in February, just weeks before the case was set to go to trial.
In a statement Friday, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome voiced sympathy for Sterling’s family and called the settlement an “important step.”
“This undoubtedly marks a milestone in this traumatic chapter of our community’s history — as this chapter closes, we must remember that the work continues,” she said. “We must work together to implement changes in policy and in our community to ensure that no other families in Baton Rouge will endure this loss, trauma, or heartbreak.”
Sterling, 37, was shot and killed in July 2016 outside a convenience store where he was selling CDs. Two officers responded to a call about a man threatening someone with a gun and, according to video from the scene, immediately shouted profanities at Sterling while threatening to open fire on him. Although Sterling did have a gun — a loaded .38-caliber handgun found in his right pocket — it was unclear whether he was reaching for it when officers tackled and shot him.
Neither of the officers were criminally charged. Blane Salamoni, the officer who fired the shots, was fired from the department in 2018 but, after appealing the decision, was allowed to resign retroactively without compensation or back pay. The other officer, Howie Lake II, was suspended for three days after police officials said he violated the department’s “command of temper” policy.
Sterling’s death was one of several high-profile incidents of police violence that set off a wave of racial justice protests during the summer of 2016 and prompted widespread cries for greater accountability from law enforcement. Hundreds of people were arrested during demonstrations in Baton Rouge. A mural of Sterling was painted at the Triple S Food Mart where he was killed.
In the wake of the fatal shooting, city officials rewrote the police department’s use-of-force guidelines to encourage officers to de-escalate situations when possible and give warnings before using deadly force. The updated guidelines also banned chokeholds and firing into vehicles unless there is an imminent threat.
The Sterling family attorneys applauded what they said were “significant policy changes.” In their statement Friday, they said they hoped the new standards “will ensure that no other family has to endure the trauma and heartbreak that Mr. Sterling’s family went through and will create a better future going forward for Baton Rouge residents.”
The family’s lawsuit, filed in 2017, named the two officers, the police department, and then-Police Chief Carl Dabadie, who retired that year. The case was brought by three women with whom Sterling fathered children.
The lawsuit claimed the fatal shooting of Sterling fit a pattern of excessive force and racial profiling at the department — a type of allegation common in officer-involved shooting cases that allows plaintiffs to seek damages that exceed caps on wrongful death payouts from government agencies. The lawsuit also alleged that negligent training and a lack of supervision contributed to Sterling’s death.
“This is a situation we’ve dealt with now for over five years,” Baton Rouge Mayor Pro Tem LaMont Cole told the Advocate, “and I’m glad to see it coming to an end.”
Mark Berman contributed to this report.