BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A former police officer whose fatal shooting of a black man set off protests in Baton Rouge nearly two years ago is accused of slapping a handcuffed man during an unrelated incident less than a month earlier.
Baton Rouge police detectives issued a court summons to Blane Salamoni for a misdemeanor charge of simple battery after reviewing body camera footage of the June 2016 incident, the police department said Monday.
Salamoni shot and killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, during a struggle outside a convenience store on July 5, 2016. State and federal authorities ruled out criminal charges against Salamoni and a second officer involved in the deadly confrontation.
But the police department says it found evidence of a crime — as well as other profanity-laced unprofessional conduct — when it reviewed body camera footage from four other incidents involving Salamoni. All four of those incidents occurred in June 2016.
Last month, Police Chief Murphy Paul fired Salamoni and suspended a second white officer who also struggled with Sterling but didn’t fire his weapon that night.
Salamoni and the other officer, Howie Lake II, both appealed their discipline earlier this month. Salamoni is asking a civil service board to reinstate him.
Brant Mayer, one of Salamoni’s lawyers, said his client received the summons last Friday. Mayer said he believes police officials are using the battery case to influence Salamoni’s appeal. He said the police department apparently has known about the body camera video of the incident for nearly two years.
“Blane just wants to clear his name,” Mayer said. “This is just one more thing Blane has to deal with before he puts this chapter behind him.”
Salamoni spoke to his supervisor about the incident immediately after it happened, Mayer said.
“There were no issues at that point,” he added.
In the battery case, Salamoni was responding to a domestic incident on June 10, 2016, when he and two other officers chased down and arrested a man. Salamoni handcuffed the man after a brief struggle, the department says. Body camera video shows the man was on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back when Salamoni slapped him in the head, the department says.
A conviction for simple battery is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Paul fired Salamoni on March 30, less than a week after Louisiana’s attorney general ruled out state criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department announced last May that it wouldn’t pursue federal criminal charges against either officer.
Salamoni shot Sterling six times after he and Lake wrestled Sterling to the ground. The officers recovered a loaded revolver from Sterling’s pocket. As a convicted felon, Sterling could not legally carry a gun.
Paul said he fired Salamoni for violating department policies on use of force and “command of temper.” He suspended Lake three days for violating only the latter policy.
Two cellphone videos of the incident quickly spread on social media after the shooting, fueling protests at which police arrested nearly 200 people.
Body camera footage captured an officer, said to be Salamoni, screaming profanities and insults at Sterling. Salamoni also pointed a gun at Sterling’s head and threatened to shoot him before he and Lake wrestled him to the ground in the parking lot outside the Triple S Food Mart.
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
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