Sterling family filing wrongful death lawsuit against Baton Rouge

Relatives of Alton Sterling, a black man who was gunned down by a white police officer last summer, are suing the city of Baton Rouge, claiming the shooting fit a pattern of racist behavior and excessive force by its police force.

The Associated Press reports Sterling’s five children planned to file the wrongful death lawsuit in state court against the city, its police department and police chief as well as the two officers involved in last summer’s deadly encounter.

Officer Blane Salamoni shot Sterling six times during a struggle outside a convenience store where the 37-year-old was selling homemade CDs.

The Justice Department investigated Sterling’s shooting and announced last month that it will not file charges against Salamoni or Officer Howie Lake II, who also wrestled Sterling to the ground but didn’t fire his gun. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office has opened its own review of the case to determine if any state criminal charges are warranted.

The family’s lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims Sterling’s shooting was the product of poor training and inadequate police procedures.

Two cellphone videos of the July 5, 2016, shooting quickly spread on social media, setting off nightly protests. The officers’ body cameras and a store surveillance camera also recorded the encounter, but those videos have not been publicly released.

Federal investigators found that Salamoni shot Sterling three times after saying that Sterling was reaching for a gun in his pocket, and fired three more shots into Sterling’s back when he began to sit up and move. The officers recovered a loaded revolver from Sterling’s pocket.

Sterling was in “agony” for minutes before he died “as a result of the vicious, negligent, and unreasonable fatal actions” of the officers, the family says in a draft of the lawsuit provided to The Associated Press.

Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola, a department spokesman, says he can’t comment on pending litigation. Both officers remain on administrative leave, a standard procedure.

The Associated Press has the full story.

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