Baton Rouge, LA – The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted on Wednesday night to offer the family of Alton Sterling a $4.5 million settlement less than a month ahead of the start of the civil trial for the family’s wrongful death lawsuit.
The Metro Council voted 7 to 4 on Feb. 10 to extend the settlement offer to Sterling’s family, WAFB reported.
“I am pleased our metro council was able to find a consensus and approve an offer of settlement in the Alton Sterling civil case,” Baton Rouge Mayor and Metro Council President Sharon Weston Broome said in a statement.
“After nearly five years, the people of Baton Rouge are finally one step closer to getting much-needed closure in this traumatic episode of our history,” Broome continued. “Now we must continue the work of building a more fair and equitable community, where every citizen is treated justly, no matter their race or ethnicity.”
The Metro Council fell one vote short of approving a proposed $5 million settlement offer in November of 2020, ABC News reported.
It’s not yet known whether the family of Sterling will accept $4.5 million and the trial is scheduled to begin on March 1.
Sterling, 37, was shot by Baton Rouge Police Officer Blane Salamoni on July 5, 2016, after police received a 911 call from a man who said someone had pulled a gun on him.
Officer Salamoni’s use of deadly force against Sterling was previously ruled justified both by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Louisiana Attorney General.
“In discussing these events, we must be mindful of what I’m describing took place very quickly,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry told reporters in 2018.
Sterling was “armed with a firearm and continuously resisting,” after officers attempted to lawfully arrest him, Landry added.
Sterling was shot after grabbing the gun in his pocket as officers fought to stop him from murdering them.
Toxicology reports indicated that drugs were likely a contributing factor to Sterling resisting arrest, according to the attorney general.
The state of Louisiana’s investigation came to the same conclusion that the U.S. Department of Justice had, and ruled that “both officers acted in a reasonable and justifiable manner.”
Chief Paul fired Officer Salamoni within days of Landry’s announcement that the fatal shooting was justified.
The chief alleged that Officer Salamoni violated use-of-force policies, as well as policies for command of temper.
The alleged policy violations against Officer Salamoni likely stemmed from him pointing his gun at Sterling’s head and threatening to blow his “f–king head off” as Sterling was resisting arrest. At the time, Officer Salamoni knew that he was dealing with a suspect who was reported to be armed with a gun.
The former officer appealed his termination, and later concurred with a settlement agreement that replaced his firing with a formal resignation, Chief Paul announced on August 1, according to The Advocate.
Chief Paul apologized to the community, and alleged that Salamoni should never have been hired by the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD).
“I want to apologize to the family of Alton Sterling and also to his kids,” the chief said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re sorry because he [Salamoni] should’ve never been hired.”
Chief Paul claimed that Salamoni had a well-documented pattern of “unprofessional behavior, police violence, marginalization, polarization and implicit bias,” and that he “should have never ever wore this uniform.”
“Baton Rouge, we are sorry,” the chief continued, according to The Washington Post. “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.”
The chief was flanked by attorney Leo Hamilton, who told reporters that Salamoni had been arrested for a physical altercation prior to having joined BRPD, according to the Associated Press.
That arrest should have precluded him from being hired, and he never mentioned it in his application, Hamilton said.
But according to court records, Salamoni was detained in July 2009 after he allegedly yelled at and pushed a woman who he had recently broken up with, The Advocate reported.
He was transported to the police station on allegations of simple battery, but the woman ultimately decided not to pursue charges.
Chief Paul said that the former officer also got into an argument with a fellow officer at a firing range, and that he often used profanity when he was dealing with suspects.
“While we obviously can’t change the past, it is clear that we must change the future,” the chief continued. “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 parents both served with BRPD for many decades, and Chief Paul refused to comment about whether or not their high-ranking roles in the department had anything to do with how supposed allegations of misconduct against the now-former officer were handled, The Advocate reported.
Hamilton noted that there were concerns that Salamoni could have gotten his job back if the appeal had progressed further.
In 2017, Sterling’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that Officer Salamoni exemplified the longstanding, department-wide racist culture and excessive force of BRPD.
That civil trial was scheduled to begin on March 1, ABC News reported.