A 2014 complaint against then-Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salamoni alleges he prevented medical personnel from rendering aid at a shooting scene while the dying victim was left "shaking and gasping for air" — allegations made public Monday by attorneys for the family of Alton Sterling, the man he shot and killed two years later, prompting nationwide protests and an ongoing civil case.
The attorneys seeking damages on behalf of Sterling's children are ramping up demands for the release of records documenting Salamoni's conduct while in uniform, speaking to the media after the controversial speech from Baton Rouge's police chief last week in which he said Salamoni should never have been hired.
"Officer Salamoni was rude, demeaning, unprofessional and provoking," the paramedic's incident report reads. "He displayed no regard for the human being lying dying in the roadway. Never have I felt so demoralized and treated with such contempt by anyone with BRPD."
An attorney for Salamoni disputes that account of the October 2014 incident.
Salamoni was fired from the police department after he killed Sterling on July 5, 2016.
He appealed his termination and Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul last week announced a settlement in the appeal, allowing both parties to finally sever ties. Paul, who took office in January 2018, issued a sweeping apology and blasted former leaders of the police department for hiring Salamoni in the first place, and then failing to intervene after concerns surfaced about his conduct while on the job.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul apologized Thursday to communities of color in Louisiana's capital city for his department's contribution…
The former officer remains central to a 2017 wrongful death suit filed on behalf of Sterling's children against Salamoni, the city of Baton Rouge and its police department. Plaintiffs' attorneys have disputed the city's recent responses to their requests for documents during the discovery process, arguing officials have failed to produce everything that should be considered during the case — including the 2014 EMS incident report.
The paramedic who wrote that report alleged that when firefighters and EMS workers arrived at the shooting scene, Salamoni informed them the patient was already dead. But when another paramedic went to double check, he found the patient "still breathing and moving."
The author of the complaint said Salamoni's actions "led to negligence in a situation where time is of the utmost importance."
"The victim of the shooting was left in the street shaking and gasping for air with no one running to his aid due to the misinformation provided by scene control," the report reads. "Like a dog, the youth laid there for all to see with time and life elapsing."
Paramedics started resuscitation efforts but were unsuccessful and the coroner's office was contacted. Then minutes later, Salamoni yelled at medical personnel while they tried to complete final evaluations, telling them to stop touching the patient, according to the incident report.
The paramedic wrote she felt Salamoni displayed contempt toward both her and the victim, referencing "the N word" to describe how he treated them.
"I find this word to be the most vulgar, foul word that exists. It is defined as being extremely disparaging and offensive," she wrote in the report. "I can only hope that no one (else) would be subjected to such disrespect and dehumanizing behavior from a fellow brother."
The last page of the complaint indicates the situation was being handled internally by the police department, but it doesn't appear Salamoni received any discipline for his actions because his personnel file doesn't reference the incident, suggesting an internal affairs investigation concluded the complaint against him was not sustained.
The paramedic who complained, however, was later disciplined for her behavior at the shooting scene. EMS spokesman Mike Chustz confirmed the medic received discipline for conduct unbecoming of an on-duty paramedic, not in retaliation for filing the report.
John McLindon, an attorney who represents Salamoni, responded Monday to the new allegations against his client by releasing a letter that Salamoni wrote to his superiors about the 2014 incident. His account says the victim still had "faint signs of life" when police arrived on scene, so EMS was called to assist. He said two paramedics arrived and rendered aid, but the person was pronounced dead a short time later.
The female paramedic then returned to the victim, checking for entrance and exit wounds, which is when Salamoni told her she was no longer allowed to touch the body because it could constitute "tampering with the crime scene." He said she "became irate" and "continued to scream and remained in the crime scene."
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The civil suit by the Sterling family claims Salamoni has exemplified longstanding problems within the Baton Rouge Police Department, including a culture of entrenched racist attitudes and excessive force among some officers that long went unchecked.
"An exception was made for (Blane Salamoni) time and time again. … This is a case of nepotism," said L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Sterling family. Salamoni's parents both held high-ranking positions within the Baton Rouge Police Department at the time of his hiring and for years after. They have both since retired.
Michael Adams, an attorney representing Sterling's three youngest children, said his team is digging up evidence the department failed to address Salamoni's behavior before it was too late.
"We are legally now connecting the dots," Adams said. "We are going to be able prove the city knew."
The team experienced a small victory Monday morning when 19th Judicial District Judge Michael Caldwell ordered the city to release the results of Salamoni's pre-employment psychological evaluation, which department leadership reviewed during the hiring process. The judge's ruling came despite objections from Salamoni's attorney Stephen Carleton, who argued it's a violation of his client's medical privacy rights. Caldwell allowed 45 days before the order will be implemented, giving defendants time to appeal his decision before releasing the records.
Caldwell also accepted the city's claim that its search of text messages and emails between department leaders yielded very little with Salamoni's name. Deelee Morris, an attorney for the city, acknowledged there are gaps in the messages that suggest some were lost around the time of Sterling's death, saying for all she knows the then-chief "dropped his phone in the toilet."
Baton Rouge's police chief said last week that Salamoni's track record in law enforcement shows "a well-documented pattern of unprofessional behavior, police violence, marginalization, polarization and implicit bias by a man who should have never, ever worn this uniform." Paul referenced other past instances in which Salamoni displayed concerning behavior, including aggression and profanity during interactions with the public.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul on Thursday apologized to the family of Alton Sterling and the Baton Rouge community for how his departme…
Salamoni's attorneys have expressed objections to Paul's characterization of their client's conduct, emphasizing that both state and federal prosecutors long ago declined to press criminal charges against him based on their review of the Sterling case. McLindon on Monday referenced department records that commend Salamoni for his competence during the training process, including diffusing violence and showing "great courage in high stress situations."
Leadership of the Baton Rouge police union has also defended Salamoni and condemned the chief's remarks.
It's unclear how Paul's apology — which some said sounded like an acceptance of responsibility in the Sterling shooting — will affect the civil lawsuit. Attorneys recently said settlement talks have fallen apart and cast blame on members of the Baton Rouge Metro Council for failing to come to the table. The trial is set for 2020 if an agreement isn't reached before then.
"There's no way that this case can be defended anymore," Stewart said Monday. "The chief has accepted fault. He's apologized and tried to heal the city. But city council has not done anything. That's why this case is still alive."
Advocate staff writer Grace Toohey contributed to this report.