Family of Alton Sterling file civil suit against City of Baton Rouge, police

By Olivia Olsen | Jul 26, 2017

BATON ROUGE — The family of Alton Sterling, an African-American man who was killed in an altercation with Baton Rouge police last year, has filed a civil suit against the City of Baton Rouge. 

After the U.S. Department of Justice decided in May to not pursue criminal charges against the officer who shot Sterling, Sterling's family is seeking damages against two officers who were allegedly involved in the shooting, the City of Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Police Department and the city's police chief.

In July 2016, Sterling was shot six times outside a Triple S Food Mart convenience store by Officer Blane Salamoni. The other officer name in the civil suit, Howie Lake II, had allegedly used a taser on Sterling prior to the shooting. A revolver was discovered on Sterling, which the officers claim he was reaching for before he was shot.

Sterling’s death incited protests from Black Lives Matter and others.

Michael Adams, a Baton Rouge-based attorney who is representing Sterling's family, told the Louisiana Record that he hopes to bring some form of justice to the bereaved. 

“[July 5] was the one-year anniversary of Mr. Sterling’s killing, and in Louisiana, you have only one year from the day the incident occurred in order to file or bring an action in civil court," Adams said. "We filed our case last week in anticipation of beating what’s called a ‘prescriptive date.’” 

A prescriptive date is a deadline by which a suit must be filed. The federal court's decision to not press criminal charges against the officers was announced on May 3, leaving two months to file the civil suit. 

“Our case is about his children,” Adams said. “These five children now not having a father as a direct result of the grossly negligent conduct of these two police officers. We think that there has been and there is an environment with the Baton Rouge Police Department that allows for there not to be de-escalation. There’s an environment that allows for there to be preconceived notion about black males and tolerates overly aggressive police behavior.” 

The case brought forth by Sterling’s family members seeks damages for what they allege was a wrongful death. 

Adams said the federal criminal investigation was limited to determining  whether Sterling’s civil rights were violated, a charge that held a significant burden of proof. 

“They were very open with us about what they found and the decision they reached," Adams aid. "They were upfront with us in saying that this is some of the worst policing that they had seen.” 

The case is now being investigated by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who will be reviewing the findings independently to determine if any state criminal charges will be brought.

Though the federal criminal investigation did not result in charges, there is hope that either the civil suit or the results of Landry’s investigation can provide peace for his children. 

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