Baton Rouge police released graphic new video Friday of the Alton Sterling shooting, including officer-worn body camera footage that offered a more complete account of the deadly encounter that ignited national protests two summers ago.
The recordings, at times grainy, show a disturbing struggle in which Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II sought to subdue Sterling outside the Triple S Food Mart. The officers had been responding to a 911 call that a man matching Sterling's description had threatened someone with a gun.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul will release his discipline decision for Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, the officers in the Alton Ster…
The new materials also included surveillance video from the convenience store, which showed Salamoni quickly becoming physical with Sterling — placing him in a headlock within seconds of arriving on the scene and drawing his service weapon almost immediately after.
Police Chief Murphy Paul described the newly released footage as "shocking to the conscience," even though it does not "tell the whole story of the investigation." The chief fired Salamoni on Friday, saying the officer disregarded the department's "training and organizational standards." Paul suspended Lake for three days.
On his body camera video, Salamoni can be heard shouting profanities at Sterling from the beginning of the encounter, threatening to shoot Sterling in the head if he fails to place his hands on the hood of a vehicle. Sterling seems confused at times throughout the encounter — asking the officers, "What I did, sir?" and, seconds later, telling them they are hurting his arm.
"Don't f****** move or I'll shoot your f****** ass, bitch!" Salamoni screams. "Put your f****** hands on the car! Put your hands on the car or I'll shoot you in your f****** head, you understand me? Don't you f****** move, you hear me?"
After the shooting, a breathless Salamoni curses at Sterling, repeatedly calling him a "stupid motherf*****" and several other profanities as Sterling lies motionless on the ground.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The video below contains highly graphic footage and extreme language recorded on the body camera worn by Salamoni while the shooting occurred. Can't see video? Click here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The video below contains highly graphic footage and extreme language recorded on the body camera worn by Lake while the shooting occurred. Can't see video? Click here.
State and federal prosecutors reviewed all of the recordings before ruling out charges against both officers, but they declined to release the footage even after announcing they had insufficient evidence to bring a criminal case.
Before Friday, the only publicly available images of the shooting had been the cellphone videos that went viral on social media in the hours following the shooting on July 5, 2016. Those snippets prompted national demonstrations, including one in Dallas during which five police officers were fatally shot. Less than two weeks after Sterling's death, a veteran from Kansas City, Missouri, traveled to Baton Rouge and killed three lawmen and wounded three others here.
Use-of-force experts hired by the U.S. Justice Department said they found Sterling's shooting death to be justifiable under the circumstances — pointing to the officers' belief that Sterling had been reaching for his gun as he resisted arrest. But the experts also found fault with the officers' tactics, saying they could amount to policy violations.
Paul, the police chief, agreed with that assessment, finding Salamoni ran afoul of the department's use-of-force policy and that Lake violated the department's rules regarding "command of temper."
W. Lloyd Grafton, a use-of-force expert in Ruston, said Salamoni "escalated everything" when he approached Sterling.
"He's saying things that would inflame anybody," said Grafton, who reviewed the new footage for The Advocate. "At no time does (Sterling) strike, push or kick at anybody. He's asking questions."
Nevertheless, Grafton said, he understands why criminal charges weren't brought against the officers. But he added that the shooting underscored the need for better training for police officers. "When I watch this video, I know we can do better," he said.
A second use-of-force expert, Ken E. Williams, a former homicide detective in Massachusetts, said Salamoni's language is disturbing but ultimately has little bearing on whether the shooting was justified.
"The police perceived they had stopped the right person," Williams said. "It's unfortunate Mr. Sterling didn't say to the officer, 'Hey, I got a gun in my back pocket.' That might have de-escalated matters."
Two use of force experts hired by the U.S. Justice Department criticized the actions taken by Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and H…
On the night of the shooting, Salamoni and Lake responded to a 911 call about a black man in a red T-shirt selling CDs who allegedly threatened another man with a gun outside the convenience store on North Foster Drive. The caller, later identified as John Young, told dispatchers a man meeting Sterling's description still had the weapon in his pocket.
The ensuing encounter between Sterling and the two officers lasted less than 90 seconds. Lake arrived first, with Salamoni arriving just seconds later.
The footage shows Lake walking up to Sterling and saying, "Could you please put your hands on that car right quick?" Sterling doesn't comply and instead tries to walk toward the store and away from the vehicle.
Lake puts his hand on Sterling's chest and pushes him back toward the car. At that point, Sterling puts his hands on the hood, but the two start tussling and Lake's body camera falls off, continuing to record audio of the encounter.
"What'd I do?" Sterling asks the officer.
Salamoni arrives then and almost immediately grabs Sterling around his head. "Don't f****** move or I'll shoot your f******" ass," Salamoni says, unholstering his weapon.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry on Tuesday declined any criminal charges against the two white Baton Rouge police officers involved in …
A struggle ensues and Salamoni tells Lake to "Tase his ass." Seconds later, he says, "Pop him again, Howie."
Sterling falls to the ground, and the officers begin wrestling with him. One of the officers can be heard shouting, "He's got a gun!"
Salamoni opens fire two seconds later, striking Sterling three times in the chest almost immediately after realizing Sterling had a gun. He shoots the man again three times in the back after Sterling apparently tries to get up.
Lake reports shots fired over his radio, then walks a short distance to a marked BRPD unit and opens the driver's side, appearing to deposit something inside the car. The store surveillance video shows Lake removing what the officers said was a loaded .38-caliber handgun from Sterling's pocket.
Meanwhile, Salamoni searches Sterling's pockets with his gun still drawn. As cash falls from Sterling's pockets, the officer can be heard repeatedly calling Sterling a "stupid motherf*****."
Salamoni then asks Lake, "Where's the gun, Howie."
"It's in my car," Lake responds. "I got it."
About 90 seconds after the shooting, Lake says he's going to get some gloves and walks back to his car then back to Sterling. "I don't want to handcuff the dude," Lake says as he returns to Sterling.
Salamoni agrees: "F*** it. Just let him be."
At the end of Salamoni's body-camera footage, an unidentified officer is seen approaching him. Salamoni suggests his work at the scene is not yet complete.
"You're done," the officer says before the footage cuts out.