Relatives of a black man who was gunned down by a white police officer in Louisiana's capital filed suit Tuesday, claiming the shooting fit a pattern of racist behavior and excessive force by its police force.
Attorneys for Alton Sterling's five children filed the wrongful death lawsuit in state court against the city of Baton Rouge, its Police Department and police chief and the two white officers involved in last summer's deadly encounter, according to The Advocate. Officer Blane Salamoni shot Sterling six times during a struggle outside a North Foster Drive convenience store last summer where the 37-year-old black man was selling homemade CDs.
The lawsuit alleges Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake II, who tased Sterling and helped wrestle him to the ground, ignored their training, disregarded police policies and unnecessarily escalated the confrontation, attorneys for the Sterling family said at a press conference outside the state courthouse downtown Tuesday morning.
L. Chris Stewart, an Atlanta-based lawyer representing Sterling's oldest children, spoke at the press conference where he detailed a string of incidents at the Police Department stretching back to Hurricane Katrina that he said highlighted racist attitudes and a culture of excessive force among some officers.
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Stewart said attorneys for the family have already spoken with former city police officers and officers from outside the department who Stewart said will be called as witnesses in the case and can substantiate the Sterling family's allegations.
The Justice Department investigated Sterling's shooting and announced last month that it will not file charges against Salamoni or Lake, who helped wrestle 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.
Read more about this story at TheAdvocate.com