BATON ROUGE — Days after Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul announced that he fired the officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling, the police chief says other officers threatened to quit over his decision.
According to The Advocate, Paul still stands by his decision to terminate 30-year-old Blane Salamoni and suspend Officer Howie Lake II for three days for their roles in shooting and killing Sterling outside a convenience store almost two years ago.
But he does concede that it has caused divisiveness within his department and the community.
From the report:
“Let’s just be honest, some of those divisions are on racial lines, and we are divided not only on this issue. The truth is if Alton Sterling was white and the officers were white, we probably wouldn’t even be down here talking about it,” he said.
Paul’s decision to fire one officer and suspend the other comes after state Attorney General Jeff Landry announced last week that there would be no state criminal charges filed against the officers. The U.S. Justice Department also declined to file federal civil rights charges against the officers.
Previously released cell phone video showed Sterling, 37, pinned to the ground by the officers before he was shot on July 5, 2016.
Police said they believed Sterling was reaching for a gun. The Justice Department said in May that evidence couldn’t prove or disprove that Sterling was reaching for a weapon, and that Sterling had a loaded .38-caliber handgun in his pocket.
The killing gripped the nation in part because two videos taken by bystanders, each less than a minute long, were released publicly shortly after the shooting and captured the final part of Sterling’s struggle with the two white officers.
Sterling’s death helped to fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.
Videos show deadly encounter
As Paul announced the disciplinary actions against the officers Friday, the department released new videos showing the incident that unfolded as police responded to a 911 call of a man with a gun at a convenience store.
Surveillance video from the Triple S Convenience store shows Sterling selling DVDs outside and packing up his goods as Lake arrives and confronts him.
When Salamoni arrives to help Lake, he pulls his gun seconds later, according to his body camera video. Ten seconds into the video, as Sterling questions why the officers are trying to detain him, Salamoni shouts, “Don’t f—– move or I’ll shoot your f—- a–. Put your f—— hands on the car.”
Video from Lake’s body camera shows the officer approaching Sterling, trying to get him to put his hands on the hood of a car, and eventually struggling with him on the ground. During the altercation, another person, presumably Salamoni, screams, “He’s got a gun!” and soon thereafter gunshots are heard.
When the officers get up, Sterling is lying on the ground outside the front door of the convenience store with a blood-soaked red shirt.
A gun is not visible in the video, but Lake tells another officer he put it in his car. The officers had been responding to a call from a homeless man who said Sterling showed him a weapon after he approached Sterling for money.
Police have said a .38-caliber handgun was found at the scene.
Less than 90 seconds passed from the moment when Lake first approached Sterling to the firing of the final shot, according to a Department of Justice report of the July 5, 2016, shooting.
The four videos released Friday include the convenience store surveillance video as well as two police-worn body camera videos and a video recorded by the dashboard camera in one of the police cars.
Two bystander videos released not long after the 2016 shooting had captured the final part of Sterling’s struggle with the two white officers.
Read The Advocate’s full report here.