After a $5 million proposed settlement fell through, officials in a Louisiana parish are now offering $4.5 million to settle the civil lawsuit brought by the family of Alton Sterling, a Black man who was killed in 2016 by police who approached him while he was selling homemade CDs in front of a convenience store.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council voted 7-4 in favor of offering the multimillion-dollar settlement to the family of Alton Sterling, news outlets reported.
Sterling’s death had inflamed racial tensions in Louisiana’s capital, cast a national spotlight on the history of strained relations between police and Black residents of Baton Rouge and sparked widespread protests.
“I am pleased our metro council was able to find a consensus and approve an offer of settlement in the Alton Sterling civil case,” Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome posted on social media. “After nearly five years, the people of Baton Rouge are finally one step closer to getting much needed closure in this traumatic episode in our history. 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.”
The governing council had narrowly rejected a proposed $5 million settlement in November.
The lawsuit names the city, its police department, a former police chief and two officers, one of whom has since resigned. It alleges the shooting fit a pattern of racist behavior and excessive force by the Baton Rouge Police Department and says poor training and inadequate police procedures led to Sterling’s death.
Former Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salamoni shot Sterling six times outside a convenience store on July 5, 2016. Sterling, 37, had been selling homemade CDs. Officer Howie Lake II helped wrestle Sterling to the ground, but Lake didn’t fire his gun. Footage of the incident was spread on social media, leading to large protests.
Internal investigators for the police department concluded Salamoni had used excessive force. He was fired in March 2018, but an August 2019 settlement allowed him to withdraw his termination and resign retroactively instead. Authorities did not file criminal charges after an investigation.
The offer comes less than three weeks before a trial in the civil suit was scheduled to begin. If the offer is rejected, the lawsuit would continue. Brandon DeCuir, one of several attorneys representing Sterling’s five children, declined to comment.
The offer calls for Sterling’s heirs to first get $1 million, paid out of the city-parish’s Insurance Reserve Fund, followed by annual $875,000 payments over the next four years.
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