The children of Alton Sterling, a Black man fatally shot by a white Baton Rouge police officer five years ago, have accepted a $4.5 million settlement from the city-parish, ending a legal battle that festered in the wake of his death.
Court records show Judge William Morvant dismissed the case after Sterling's five children accepted the city-parish's settlement offer, which the Metro Council approved earlier this year.
"This matter has been resolved," Parish Attorney Andy Dotson said Friday. "And the settlement agreement made with the plaintiff will proceed as planned as voted upon by the council."
That agreement will pay $1 million upfront to Sterling's children with the remaining money being paid in equal installments over the next four years.
The initial funds will be allocated from the city-parish's Insurance Reserve Fund, with the remaining payments pulled from the annual operating budget.
However, a local activist has filed suit against the city-parish over the settlement, claiming the Metro Council violated the state’s open meetings law by not properly posting notice of the meeting agenda when the issue was originally discussed.
An opinion from the state’s Attorney General’s Office has already rejected many of the lawsuit’s claims.
Sterling was fatally shot by Baton Rouge police responding to a complaint of a man with a gun outside a convenience store on North Foster Drive in 2016. Widespread protests followed after cellphone video of the encounter was spread online.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sterling's five children in 2017 by their respective mothers, sought punitive damages against the city-parish for allegedly violating Sterling's civil rights. It also claims that the city-parish was negligent in its hiring, training and supervision of Blane Salamoni, the officer who fired the six shots that killed Sterling.
Police Chief Murphy Paul, who was not leading the department at the time of the shooting, said later that Salamoni should never have been hired as a Baton Rouge officer.
An East Baton Rouge state district judge approved the settlement and closed the case in mid-May.
“This is a situation we’ve dealt with now for over five years and I’m glad to see it coming to an end,” said Mayor Pro Tem LaMont Cole. “As we have extreme challenges in our city right now around violent crimes, we need to be working toward solutions to address crime now versus crimes of the past.”
Cole went on to say he’s ready for city leaders to focus on goals of creating a safe and peaceful environment in the city-parish in the wake of the fallout from Sterling’s death. It's something he feels can happen now.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome expressed similar sentiments in a prepared statement released by her office Friday.
"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," Broome wrote. "My continued sympathy and prayers go out to the Sterling family as they continue to navigate this loss."