Alton Sterling’s Family Agrees to $4.5 Million Settlement, Lawyers Say

The settlement came nearly five years after Mr. Sterling, a Black father of five, was fatally shot by a white police officer in Baton Rouge, La.


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The family of Alton Sterling, a Black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La., has reached a $4.5 million settlement with the city, nearly five years after his death, the family’s lawyers said.

The settlement, which came after the family had filed a lawsuit against Baton Rouge and others, “will allow the city to heal and provide a pathway for Mr. Sterling’s children to be provided for financially,” the lawyers said in a statement.

The announcement came after a state district court judge in East Baton Rouge Parish approved the settlement and closed the case in mid-May, The Advocate reported.

City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Mr. Sterling, 37, a father of five, was fatally shot on July 5, 2016, after two Baton Rouge police officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, responded to a report that a Black man who was selling CDs outside a convenience store had brandished a gun and threatened someone.

Cellphone video recorded by a bystander shows an officer pushing Mr. Sterling onto the hood of a car and tackling him to the ground. Mr. Sterling is held to the pavement by two officers, and one appears to hold a gun above Mr. Sterling’s chest.

Someone on the video can be heard saying: “He’s got a gun! Gun!” An officer can be seen pulling his weapon. After some shouting, what sound like gunshots can be heard, and the camera shifts away, and there are more sounds that could be gunshots.

A state report later said that Mr. Lake had found a .38-caliber handgun in Mr. Sterling’s pocket after the shooting.

The video of Mr. Sterling’s death — and one of the fatal shooting of another Black man, Philando Castile, by the police in Minnesota the next day — set off protests, years before the murder of George Floyd touched off global demonstrations against racism and police violence.

In early 2017, the Justice Department decided not to bring federal charges against Mr. Salamoni and Mr. Lake, and Louisiana’s attorney general announced almost a year later that the officers would not face state charges.

Several days after that, Mr. Salamoni, who had fired six shots at Mr. Sterling, was fired from the Baton Rouge Police Department, and Mr. Lake was suspended for three days.

After announcing those disciplinary actions, the Baton Rouge police released footage of Mr. Sterling’s arrest and his killing.

The body-camera video shows Mr. Salamoni repeatedly shouting profanities at Mr. Sterling, slamming him into a car, ordering Mr. Lake to use his Taser and threatening to shoot Mr. Sterling with a gun pointed at his head.

In September, the Baton Rouge Metro Council rejected a proposed $5 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit that Mr. Sterling’s children had filed against the city in 2017, which contended that the killing was part of a longstanding pattern of racism and excessive force within the Baton Rouge Police Department, The Advocate reported.

“After nearly five years, the people of Baton Rouge are finally one step closer to getting much-needed closure in this traumatic episode of our history,” Sharon Weston Broome, mayor-president of the Metro Council, said in a statement in February, after the council had approved the settlement. “Now we must continue the work of building a more fair and equitable community, where every citizen is treated justly, no matter their race or ethnicity.”

In their statement, the lawyers for Mr. Sterling’s family — L. Chris Stewart, Brandon DeCuir, Michael R.D. Adams, Justin Bamberg and Dale Glover — said that they were also grateful that Baton Rouge and the Police Department had made significant policy changes after Mr. Sterling’s death.

“Our hope is that these policy changes, which focus on de-escalation, providing verbal warnings prior to using deadly force and prohibiting officers from both using chokeholds and firing into moving vehicles, will ensure that no other family has to endure the trauma and heartbreak that Mr. Sterling’s family went through,” the lawyers said.

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