BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The officer who fired the shots that killed Alton Sterling has been fired, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul confirmed Friday.
NEWLY RELEASED VIDEOS (WARNING: THESE VIDEOS CONTAIN VULGAR LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE). From WAFB News Management: This is a high-profile case with large public interest. We believe the public has the right to see the evidence from this case that was publicly released by the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Paul said Officer Blane Salamoni violated use of force policies as well as policies related to command of temper. Officer Salamoni was notified of his termination Friday afternoon.
"Our police officers are held to a higher standard. Fear cannot be a driver that responds to every incident. Unreasonable fear within an officer is dangerous. Rather an officer needs to respond with awareness of a situation and the ability to effectively and rationally evaluate a situation and it's appropriate response. Our officers should be guardians for the community, providing assurance that we'll act legally and professionally and when appropriate, transition to that warrior mentality when he feels that his life or someone else's life is in imminent danger. Policing isn't easy," Paul said.
Officer Howie Lake has been suspended for three days. "That is my decision. That is the right decision," Paul said.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul held a news conference Friday evening to discuss his decisions.
Paul said Salamoni chose not to answer any questions during BRPD's investigation, per the advisement of his attorney. Paul added Lake answered all questions.
"To our community, all the residents of Baton Rouge who are watching, please listen to my words very carefully. Treat our police officers with the respect that their positions deserve, and I assure you that the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department will reciprocate the gesture. Please stop resisting. Stop running. When a police officer gives you direction, listen, follow his directives," said Paul.
Paul spoke extensively about working together with the community and the mayor to move forward, rather than look backward.
"I have your back, I support you. I appreciate what you do everyday, we all do," Paul said, addressing police officers in the city, assuring them he will meet one on one with each officer to explains his decisions.
Paul also spoke out about seeking better pay for officers. "We want our police officers to be medics with the opioid epidemic, social workers, crime preventers, marriage counselors, and I can go on and on and on about all the things that we expect our officers to be. And each one of those that I've mentioned, each one of those responsibilities requires a different hat, different skill set, each one of them to accomplish that task. And what we do in this community? We don't even want to pay our police officers, but yet we want them to wear all these different hats. Pay our police officers," Paul said.
Paul also said officers do good deeds that do not receive the same type of attention as bad deeds. "We have great men and women in this department who wear this uniform, who understand leadership, who understand loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, and personal courage. But their actions, they don't trend on social media. Their performance don't make the headlines of the newspaper. Their conduct doesn't present gatherings like this conference is. Not the good deeds we do. We don't get this much attention for the good deeds, but we have police officers out there every day that are putting their lives on the lives and we ask a lot of our police officers we do, and sometimes it appears that those expectations reasonable," Paul said.
Paul also said his decision was not based on politics. "Just to be clear, my decision was not based on politics. It was not based on emotions. It was based on the facts of the case. The testimony provided by our officers and witnesses and the recommendation from our board members during the disciplinary hearings. But I take full responsibility for the decision that I made. And it's a responsibility that I take very seriously. And I understand that this decision will not only affect the officers, but it will also affect their families and the community as well," he said.
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Earlier this week, Salamoni's attorney predicted his client would be terminated and pledged to appeal the decision to the Baton Rouge Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board.
On Friday, Salamoni's attorney confirmed his client still plans to appeal his termination.
Salamoni encountered Sterling outside a Baton Rouge convenience store in July of 2016 after responding to a report that a man there had just threatened someone with a gun.
Salamoni was the second officer to arrive on the scene and found Sterling standing with the first responding officer.
According to sources familiar with the case, Salamoni pointed his gun at Sterling's head and told him he would "blow his f**king head off" if he did not put his hands on a nearby car.
The other officer, Howie Lake, did not fire any shots.
Both officers, who have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, were cleared of any federal civil rights charges last year and then cleared of state criminal charges this week by the Louisiana Attorney General.
VIDEOS FROM INVESTIGATION:
After Salamoni pointed a gun at Sterling, the struggled continued. A taser was deployed on Sterling, but did not appear to have much effect on him. On a cell phone video showing part of the shooting, Salamoni can be heard yelling that Sterling had a gun.
Salamoni then fired six shots. After the shots are fired, Salamoni can be heard yelling "f**k!"
A loaded handgun was then pulled from Sterling's pocket, investigators say. An autopsy showed Sterling had multiple illegal drugs in his system, including cocaine.
THE APPEALS PROCESS
A Baton Rouge firefighter or police officer has the right to appeal a termination to the Fire and Police Civil Service Board. An appeal must be filed within 15 days and is generally heard within three months.
The appeals hearing is open to the public.
Either party can appeal the board's decision. If so, the case is decided by a 19th Judicial District Court judge. That judge's decision can then be appealed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, if desired.