Baton Rouge police chief Murphy Paul has publicly apologized on behalf of the department for ever hiring Blane Salamoni, the white officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling, a Black man, in 2016.
Paul, who is Black, did not join the department until 2018, but said it was the department’s duty to prevent brutality moving forward.
“We’re sorry because he should have never been hired,” Paul said. “And while we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future, and 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 Baton Rouge.”
In March 2018, Salamoni was fired from the department. Surveillance and recently-released bodycam footage revealed Salamoni shooting Sterling just minutes into the encounter outside of a convenience store.
Sterling was selling DVDs outside of the store and packing up when Officer Howie Lake II confronted him. Salamoni arrived to help Lake, pulling his gun almost immediately. Sterling questioned why the officers were trying to detail him, while Salamoni shouted, “Don’t f—— more or I’ll shoot your f—— a–. Put your f—— hands on the car.”
Salamoni struggled with Sterling onto the ground. Someone — presumably Salamoni — screamed, “He’s got a gun!” Salamoni shot Sterling moments later.
Though a gun was not visible in the video, officers said they found a handgun at the scene.
The incident sparked Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country. Both federal and state investigators did not file civil rights charges against the officers.
Salamoni initially appealed his job termination, but he and the department reached an agreement Aug. 1 that would keep Salamoni from ever working with the department again, while also not offering him compensation.
Leo Hamilton, an attorney for the department, said Salamoni had a history of violating standards with his temper and use of force.
One time, Hamilton said, an officer told a superior that Salamoni could kill somebody if the department did not do something about him.
Paul was correct in saying Salamoni should have never been on the force — He was arrested for being involved in a physical altercation prior to being accepted to the force, which, according to the Baton Rouge Police Department’s recruiting documents, disqualifies an applicant from becoming an officer.
CNN reports Salamoni’s attorney, John McLindon bemoaned Paul’s “inflammatory” remarks. He called the apology irresponsible and said Salamoni has the option to go back into law enforcement.
“If he ever wanted to get back into law enforcement, he can,” McLindon told CNN. “I’m not sure if he will, but that option is always there.”