WATCH: Baton Rouge Officer Who Shot Alton Sterling is Fired Other Officer Involved Suspended

After nearly two years of investigations and a public outcry over the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul on Friday fired one officer and suspended another as he pleaded with the community to heal the wounds and look forward.

Officer Blane Salamoni’s interactions with Sterling in July 2016 violated departmental policies that warranted his dismissal, Paul said. Salamoni was the officer who fired the fatal shots. The second officer involved, Howie Lake II, handled the situation more appropriately, Paul said, even de-escalating the situation. Lake was given a 3-day suspension for some of his actions that night.

“We had two officers involved in one incident, the same incident with two different responses,” Paul said. He said his decision was not based on politics or emotion, but on “the facts of the case.”

The two officers, both white, were attempting to arrest Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, after a 911 call came in about a man selling CDs outside a north Baton Rouge convenience store who had threatened someone with a gun. Sterling matched the description and, after a brief struggle with the officers that lasted less than 90 seconds, he was shot. Officers found a loaded handgun in Sterling’s pocket.

Paul said based on the department’s internal affairs investigation, Salamoni violated policies on use of force and command of temper. He said Lake did not violate their use of force policy, but was in violation of command of temper. Salamoni’s termination as a Baton Rouge Police officer became effective Friday, Paul said.

“These actions were not minor deviations from policy, as they contributed to the outcome that resulted in the death of another human being,” Paul said.

The police department’s use of force policy states: “Every member of the department shall use only the force necessary to effect an arrest or maintain the custody of a suspect.”

The command of temper policy directs officers to “exercise emotional control” and says they should not “use rude or derogatory language, racist terminology, or attempt to deride, offend, or insult anyone.”

Salamoni’s lawyer, John McLindon, said they will appeal the decision to the Municipal Police and Fire Civil Service Board. McLindon said Friday night that he didn’t think Salamoni violated either policy and said he should have gotten a punishment similar to Lake’s.

McLindon said Salamoni has recently realized he can never return to being a police officer in the city of Baton Rouge, but filing an appeal is a “matter of pride,” hoping for an acknowledgement that his actions in the shooting were appropriate.

Kyle Kershaw, Lake’s lawyer, said he and his client have not decided if they will appeal the suspension. However, he said he believes Lake acted in a way that should not have warranted any sanction.

“He didn’t do anything wrong,” Kershaw said, but noted that Lake is ready to get this behind him and return to work next week. “He wants to get back to his job,” Kershaw said.

Paul’s administrative decision came as the department also released the officers’ body camera videos and store surveillance footage, which captured the graphic shooting from start to finish. Only portions of the shooting from two cell phone videos had been seen previously. Those videos, which were shared widely on social media, sparked days-long protests in July 2016.

The attorneys for Sterling’s five children said they applauded Paul’s decision to fire Salamoni, calling it courageous, but said they would have also liked to see Lake fired.

“They sat there and cussed over him and called him names as he sat there bleeding and dying and not once did they ever become the guardian that Chief Paul just said his police officers should be,” said Brandon Decuir, an attorney for Sterling’s children. “Blane Salamoni was no longer a guardian for the citizens of Baton Rouge and Howie Lake was complicit sitting there. … His actions are still egregious.”

Before announcing the decision about the officer’s discipline, Paul called on the community to “please stop resisting… stop running.” He asked for community support and said that, in exchange, officers will act professionally and in accordance with policy. If they do not, Paul said, residents should file official complaints so the issue can be handled.

But Paul also pledged his support to his police force — an agency that he’s been at the helm of for less than three months — and called on local leaders to “pay our officers” what he said they deserve.

Paul also noted that during a Thursday night disciplinary hearing, which precedes any disciplinary decision, that Salamoni, on the advice of his attorney, had declined to answer questions. McLindon said Salamoni had given two statements during the investigation, and “they had everything they needed.” Paul said Lake did respond to questions during his disciplinary hearing.

In the statements that Salamoni did give to internal affairs investigators shortly after the shooting, he said Sterling “became very violent and began pulling away from the officers,” according to internal police records released Friday. Salamoni added that he and Lake “knew that it was a high probability that Sterling had a weapon in his pants, so they were scared.”

“Salamoni stated that Officer Lake was trying to be nice and as calm as possible while speaking to Sterling,” the records state. Salamoni said he used repeated profanities during the encounter hoping that Sterling “would realize that the police are here and we are not playing.”

The videos released Friday did not clearly show that Sterling became immediately violent with the officers. In the initial moments, Sterling asks, “What I do?” and uses the word “sir” to address the officers.

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