BATON ROUGE — The State of Louisiana is now investigating whether Baton Rouge Police Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II acted lawfully in the shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016 after a federal investigation concluded Sterling's civil rights had not been violated.
Salamoni and Lake are white and Sterling was an African American.
Sterling, 37, was shot in front of a Triple S Food Mart after officers received a report he had threatened someone with a gun. Sterling was shot multiple times after allegedly refusing the officers instructions to put his hands on the hood of a car. After being jolted with a stun gun, officers shot the man when they allegedly observed him reaching for a pistol in his pants pocket.
Critics alleged the officers threatened to kill Sterling and shot him without resistance. They said the gun he carried had remained in his pants pocket and was lawful because Louisiana has an “open-carry” law.
Family and friends of Sterling said if the officers are not criminally charged, they should at least lose their jobs.
The altercation was observed on video cameras and two cell phone videos that were circulated publicly after the shooting, sparking protests in Baton Rouge.
A Baton Rouge police officer for four years, Salamoni was placed on paid administrative leave, as was Lake.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division conducted a 10-month investigation into the shooting and cleared the officers last month of violating Sterling’s civil rights.
John S. McLindon of Walter, Papillion, Thomas, Cullens LLC in Baton Rouge, Salamoni’s attorney, said the State of Louisiana has now taken up an investigation of the case.
“The federal government decided not to bring charges against the officers,” McLindon told the Louisiana Record. “There was no evidence of wrongdoing. Now the state under the office of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry will look at it.”
McLindon said the state inquiry has yet to begin.
“They’re waiting for the federal investigators to supply them with information," he said.
McLindon said it is not unusual for the state to follow the federal government in conducting its own investigation. He said he is confident the outcome of the second investigation will be the same as the first.
“The state is not required to look at the case,” he said.
Representing Sterling’s family, including three children ages four to six, Michael Adams of the law firm of De Cuir, Clark & Adams LLP said the federal judgement only found that there was no civil rights violation. He said the case is far from over.
"Proving a civil rights violation, you face a tough standard and federal involvement in the case is over," Adams said. "However, the U.S. Justice Department told us this case is the worst policing they've seen in 100 years. We'll be pursuing civil liability claims in the case for wrongful death and gross negligence by the officers, and the case could also go to the Louisiana State grand jury."