In a strange set of circumstances, Baton Rouge taxpayers are apparently covering the legal bills for the fired police officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling in July 2016. Residents are picking up the tap while the ex-cop battles the city to get back his job.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council approved an increase in public funds on Wednesday for Blane Salamoni to defend himself against a lawsuit filed on behalf of Sterling’s children, the Advocate reported.
In case you forgot, Salamoni and his partner, Howie Lake, were responding to a call about a man threatening someone with a gun outside a convenience store. Sterling, 37, did have a gun, and the cops claimed that he was reaching for it when he was tackled. Salamoni pulled his gun as Sterling questioned why the officers were trying to detain him. Salamoni shouted, “Don’t f***ing move or I’ll shoot your f***ing a–,” before firing.
Louisiana’s district attorney decided last year not to prosecute Salamoni or his partner, which set off another round of protests in the city. Attorney General Jeff Landry said the officers’ actions were “well-founded and reasonable.” Yet, police officials fired Salamoni, and the officer decided to appeal his dismissal.
The 2017 lawsuit, filed in state district court, claims that Salamoni actions display poor training, as well as the ingrained racist culture among many officers in the department.
Council members approved spending public funds up to $37,500 for Salamoni’s legal defense.
It’s standard procedure for the city to cover the legal expense of police officers, and othe Parish Attorney’s Office often serves as legal counsel, the newspaper explained. But in this case, the parish’s lawyer declined to represent Salamoni because the office was also representing another defendant in the case, presumably Lake, who was not fired.
The Sterling family attorney said he hopes the city will settle the case before it comes to trial, likely by next year. That would be in the city’s interest, he added, because taxpayers are on the hook for Salamoni’s mounting legal expenses.
Meanwhile, Salamoni was continuing to appeal the city’s decision to fire him. On Thursday, the local civil service board approved another motion to postpone the hearing.