Alton Sterling’s Family Sues Baton Rouge, Police Department for Wrongful Death

By Sameer Rao Jun 27, 2017

Alton Sterling‘s five children, via their guardians, accused the city of Baton Rouge and its police department of racist and violent actions in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Louisiana state court today (June 27).

CNN published the lawsuit, which three of Sterling’s partners filed on behalf of their minor children with him—Andricka Williams, mother of Journee and Josiah Williams and Alton Sterling Jr.; Quinyetta McMillion, mother of Cameron Sterling; and Kimberly Pierson, mother of Na’Quincy Pierson. In addition to the city and police department, the lawsuit specifically names officer Blane Salamoni, who killed Sterling last July; his colleague Howie Lake and their chief Carl Dabadie Jr. as defendants. Sterling was Black, all of the officers are White.

The filing’s various allegations of excessive force include:

  • Salamoni, immediately after joining Lake on the scene, approached Sterling, put a gun to his head and shouted "Bitch, I will fucking kill you" and "I am going to shoot you in your motherfucking head"
  • Lake deployed his Taser on Sterling after he complied with the officers’ orders and placed his hands on a car hood
  • Salamoni tackled Sterling after the Taser deployment
  • Salamoni shot Sterling three times while he was on the ground, and three more times after Sterling rolled onto his side

The plaintiffs attribute these actions to poor training, a lack of use-of-force protocol and unaddressed systemic racism within the Baton Rouge Police Department. The suit also cites state troopers from Michigan and New Mexico who assisted Baton Rouge officers after Hurricane Katrina and allegedly called Black citizens "’heathens’ and ‘animals’ that ‘needed to be beat down.’"

The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages. 

Salamoni fatally shot Sterling during a confrontation outside a Baton Rouge convenience store. The store’s owner permitted Sterling to sell CDs for cash on the property. Both officers maintain that they thought Sterling was reaching for his gun, which he started carrying for protection after a robbery, but cell phone video showed officers obtaining the gun only after the shooting. Time/The Associated Press reports that the officers are still on administrative leave, and that Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry is reviewing the case for possible criminal charges. The Department of Justice, led by an attorney general who believes police departments deserve less oversight, announced last month that it would not charge Salamoni or Lake.

Sterling was killed the same week Philando Castile was killed by ex-St. Anthony, Minnesota, officer Jeronimo Yanez. Both killings, captured and disseminated by cell phone cameras, prompted major protests against racist police violence nationwide.