Above, the body cam video from Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salamoni (who was fired yesterday), recording the confrontation he and his partner had with Alton Sterling. It ended with Sterling dead. The video has extremely raw language, so don’t watch it at work or with children around. But do watch it with the sound up. You need to listen to how Salamoni treated Sterling.
On his body camera video, Salamoni can be heard shouting profanities at Sterling from the beginning of the encounter, threatening to shoot Sterling in the head if he fails to place his hands on the hood of a vehicle. Sterling seems confused at times throughout the encounter — asking the officers, “What I did, sir?” and, seconds later, telling them they are hurting his arm.
Surveillance at Triple S Food Mart shows an overhead angle of where Sterling was selling homemade CDs before he was approached by Baton Rouge officers, as well as Salamoni quickly becoming physical with Sterling — placing him in a headlock within seconds of arriving on the scene and drawing his service weapon almost immediately after.
“Don’t f****** move or I’ll shoot your f****** ass, bitch!” Salamoni screams. “Put your f****** hands on the car! Put your hands on the car or I’ll shoot you in your f****** head, you understand me? Don’t you f****** move, you hear me?”
After the shooting, a breathless Salamoni curses at Sterling, repeatedly calling him a “stupid motherf*****” and several other profanities as Sterling lies motionless on the ground.
Watching the Salamoni body cam video, it’s not hard to see how Sterling could have been very confused by what the police officers were ordering him to do. There was a long federal investigation of this case, which resulted in no charges, as well as a state investigation, which also produced no charges.
Blane Salamoni may or may not deserve jail, but he does not have the temper to carry a gun and be authorized to use deadly force. With officers like that on the force, no wonder black people are afraid of cops. I’d be afraid if I were confronted by a police officer that threatened to blow my head off only seconds after engaging me — and with me not doing anything threatening to him.
If you don’t think we have a problem with violent police, watch the video above. At the beginning of the Alton Sterling affair, a former police officer who has strong feelings about police brutality took me through the available video, and told me that the police would likely not be charged, because their actions were legally justifiable, but that they were guilty of terrible police practice — not a crime, maybe, but still, Alton Sterling is dead, and he didn’t have to be.
Now, to be fair, Sterling had a rap sheet a mile long, and was armed with a pistol even though he was forbidden by law from owning a gun. The pistol was in his front right pocket, and it emerged when the two officers were wrestling him to the ground. Other video shows Sterling’s right hand was free in the seconds before he was shot, and that he appeared to be reaching for the gun in his pocket. This fact is probably why neither the feds nor the state charged the officers in the case.
Still. Still. It should never have escalated to that point. I had in the past assumed the fault was entirely Sterling’s, for not complying with the officers’ lawful orders. The Salamoni body cam video shows that Salamoni’s extremely hostile approach could have confused Sterling. Watch the video. Can you guarantee that you would have been able to do what those police ordered you to do, given the way they rushed him?