“This decision was not taken lightly,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced. “We came to this conclusion after countless hours of reviewing the evidence.”
Sterling’s grieving loved ones were enraged after Landry privately told them officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II would not face state charges.
“Shame on you, Blane Salamoni,” said Sharon Sterling, the victim’s wheelchair-bound aunt who suffered a stroke after the shooting. “You made a decision that night and it was bad one.”
The state investigation suggests Sterling was on drugs as he forcefully resisted arrest nearly two years ago, something his relatives vehemently dismissed.
Sterling’s family accused Landry of making him out to be a “monster,” while their attorneys called his conclusion a “biased” report.
The AG’s office said Salamoni and Lake were trying to make a “lawful arrest” when they approached Sterling on July 5, 2016.
They were called to a Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge just after midnight, where someone said a man was threatening outside with a handgun.
Surveillance footage, which authorities have refused to release, showed Sterling threatening a man with a handgun in his right pocket, the AG’s report said. Cellphone video from the encounter has been made public, however.
Sterling was black, and both officers are white.
When the cops arrived, they told Sterling to put his hands on a car while he was in the middle of selling bootleg CDs to women outside the store.
The cops tried to restrain his right hand, the report said, and Salamoni made a forceful threat to a struggling Sterling.
“Don’t f—–g move or I’ll shoot you in your f—–g head,” he told Sterling.
Lake then tried to hit Sterling twice with a Taser, which didn’t seem to have an impact on him.
Landry blamed “scheduled and illegal” substances — including cocaine, fentanyl and THC — in his system may have led to his resilience to the shocks.
“It is reasonable that Mr. Sterling was under the influence and that contributed to his non-compliance,” Landry said.
Salamoni motioned toward his gun, which was back in its holster, and warned “if you move, I swear to God.”
Landry’s office said Sterling continually reached for his right front pocket, which prosecutors said had a loaded .38-caliber handgun in it.
Salamoni yelled “he’s going for the gun” to Lake before firing a burst of three shots at the 37-year-old suspect.
He fired another three shots at Sterling as he rolled to his left — away from the officer.
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said Landry’s report is “not the last word,” vowing that the city would now investigate the shooting.
Police chief Murphy Paul promised all footage from the killing will be released — at some point.
“We ask for just a little more patience as we work to wrap up our internal investigation,” Paul said at a joint news conference with Broome.
Both officers are likely to appear at a departmental disciplinary hearing by Friday, the police chief said.
John McLindon, the attorney for Salamoni, said the timing of the hearing is “grossly unfair” and believes it’s a “foregone conclusion” his client will be fired.
Salamoni and Lake dodged federal civil rights charges in May 2017, when Justice Department investigators said cops didn’t break any rules.
Sterling’s children sued the Baton Rouge Police Department a month later, blaming its policies for allowing racism among the ranks and poor training practices.
They accused Salamoni of referring to their father as “b—h” when he pointed the gun at him.
Lawyers for Sterling’s family said the civil case against police department “will prove, in a court of law, that the actions of these officers were outrageous.”
“There will be no more secret investigations,” attorney Mike Adams said. “We’re now in a civil lawsuit and we’re going to put it all out in the light of day.
“And all of America will know how poor the policing was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 5.”
Sharon Sterling, his shaken aunt, repeatedly called Salamoni a killer whose children would one day learn about what he did.
“You all have kids too. And to put Blane Salamoni back on the streets of Baton Rouge, you’re putting a killer back on the streets,” she said after Landry’s announcement. “So you watch your kids at night.”
Landry’s probe didn’t look into Baton Rouge’s police practices, and spent the last 10 months completely reinvestigating the case.
But attorneys for Sterling’s family picked apart the report, saying it relied on the same FBI experts who cleared the officers last May.
Amnesty International also called for laws to change on use of force in the U.S.
“This serves as a persistent reminder that we cannot expect accountability until the United States fully complies with international standards on lethal force,” said Kristina Roth of Amnesty International USA.
Sterling’s death in 2016, which came a day before the police shooting of Philando Castile in Minneapolis, set off protests in which nearly 200 people were arrested.
Many were left in despair after Tuesday’s announcement.
“This is white America,” Sterling’s tearful aunt, Veda Washington, told reporters ahead of the announcement. “They didn’t see police officers do anything wrong.”
“I told them to kiss my ass,” she told reporters.
With News Wire Services
On – 27 Mar, 2018 By Terence Cullen