The Baton Rouge civil service commission on Thursday set the dates for the appeal hearings of Baton Rouge police officer Howie Lake and former officer Blane Salamoni, the two officers involved in the 2016 fatal shooting of Alton Sterling.
The hearing for Salamoni, the officer terminated for his conduct in the incident which included firing the shots that killed Sterling, is set for Oct. 18-19, the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board decided Thursday.
The hearing for Lake, who was suspended for three days for his conduct in the incident, will be Nov. 15.
Both hearings are scheduled more than two years after the encounter happened on July, 5 2016, outside a convenience store on North Foster Drive. It was partially recorded on cellphones that were shared on social media, sparking days of protests nationwide about police brutality.
Salamoni and Lake were responding to a 911 call about a man who had allegedly threatened someone with a gun while he was selling CDs outside the store. After a brief struggle that lasted less than 90 seconds, Salamoni fired six shots into Sterling.
Lawyers for Salamoni, Lake and Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul agreed on the hearing dates, and the decision to separate the hearings for the two officers.
"We definitely want a decision, but we don't want to be rushed," said Salamoni's lawyer, John McLindon. McLindon said since Salamoni was fired, he has found a job, but would not say where the former officer is now employed.
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Board members were also adamant that the hearings for the high-profile cases not come too soon, agreeing it was necessary to give time to the attorneys to file subpoenas and prepare evidence exhibits for the board to review in advance.
Sterling's aunt, Veda Washington, who arrived after the meeting ended Thursday morning said she is concerned about the fall date for Salamoni's hearing.
"It's a long time for this. Period," Washington said, wearing a shirt commemorating the life of Sterling. She said her family plans to attend all future hearings, demanding justice for her nephew, no matter how long it takes.
Paul fired Salamoni in March for violating the department's use of force policy, in addition to its policy on command of temper.
Lake also was suspended for violating the command-of-temper policy. Lake did not fire his weapon during the encounter, though he did twice attempt to use a stun gun. He returned to work April 5. A police spokesman said he first attended training to get back up-to-date with department standards.
In Paul’s March announcement about the discipline for the two officers involved in the Sterling shooting, he distinguished Salamoni’s actions from Lake’s — saying Lake “attempted to use de-escalation and disengagement techniques consistent with policy and procedure and training,” while Salamoni did not.
The five-member civil service board also on Thursday set a hearing date for former officer Michelle Patterson to appeal her termination. She was fired earlier this month for filing a false police report in September. She spent about seven months on paid administrative leave before Paul fired her.
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The board set her hearing tentatively for August.
In her request for the hearing, attorney Kyle Kershaw said Patterson denies the allegations against her and "that the discipline levied was excessive."
Patterson was fired for changing a report she filed about a September incident where she initially said she found a woman in possession of marijuana, but later reported that she had not found the drug on the woman. She was arrested in October but remained on paid administrative leave for more than seven months until her termination.
Paul wrote that "none of the reasons (you) gave for (your) behavior in any way excuses your actions in this case," according to her disciplinary letter, obtained by The Advocate in a public records request.
Paul fired Patterson for violating the department's policies on conduct unbecoming to an officer, failure to secure property or evidence, falsification of documents and violation of law, the letter says.
Department officials first found both an original and supplemental report filed by Patterson about the incident, but a week later only the original report was in the system, saying that the woman had not been in possession of drugs.
The letter says department officials became aware of Patterson's actions after a landlord asked for the report as evidence to evict the woman, who was given the summons.
"A review of your body camera footage from the call showed that you found (the woman) in possession of marijuana, that you confiscated the drugs and wrote (the woman) a summons," the letter to Patterson says. "Nevertheless, there was no marijuana submitted to the evidence room in reference to this file number nor did you turn in the summons to criminal records.”
Police searched Patterson's police unit where they found the original summons she issued the woman as well as evidence from two other incidents: a statement from a crash scene and business cards and wallet items from a criminal investigation, the letter says.
Patterson told internal affairs police officials that she changed the report because her supervisor advised her too; however he "vehemently denied" that conversation happened, and two officers who Patterson said heard the conversation also denied that happened, the letter says.
The second officer involved in the 2016 shooting of Alton Sterling also filed an appeal last week asking the local civil service board to over…