Tension Growing in Baton Rouge While D.A. Withdraws from Shooting Case

Jul 12, 2016

Police and protestors, Sunday in Baton Rouge
Credit S. Lincoln

“I’m announcing my decision to recuse my office from the determination of criminal responsibility in the death of Alton Sterling,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore announced Monday.

The decision is due to his long-standing working relationship with the parents of Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salamoni, alleged to have fired the fatal shots one week ago.

“I’ve been involved in the law enforcement business for 42 years, and the bulk of those years I’ve known the parents of one of these officers,” Moore stated. “And this is the only and the proper decision to make.”

Salamoni’s father, Capt. Noel Salamoni, heads BRPD SWAT, and his mother is a retired police captain.

Community activist Eugene Collins says while he respects the D.A.’s decision, it also serves to underscore the divide that exists between law enforcement and Baton Rouge’s black community.

“The relationships between the African-American community and police officers – that tension – has been there for a number of years,” Collins told WRKF. “And our leaders haven’t done an effective enough job addressing it.”

Collins has been on the front lines of the demonstrations since Sterling’s death, working to keep the peace, primarily at the Triple S convenience store, where the shooting occurred.  But he says police actions throughout this past weekend have been escalating the tensions.

“Officers are clearly trying to curb these protests by arresting as many of the protestors as they possibly can,” the activist says.

Nearly 200 have been arrested. Collins says this weekend he witnessed police clearly enjoying their use of riot control gear and tactics to effect those arrests.

“They’re laughing at them. At a time when they should be, you know, definitely feeling the pain of the community, to see officers laughing at protestors has definitely added to their anger,” Collins explains.

And while the D.A. has recused himself in the Alton Sterling case, he also said Monday that his office is still handling prosecutions of the arrested protestors.