After nearly 24 hours of public outcry, the identities of the officers involved in the Alton Sterling shooting have been released. Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, members of the department's uniform patrol division, were confirmed as the two officers present at the scene when Sterling died. Salamoni has four years' experience on the police force, and Lake hasthree. Both men are white.
At approximately 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Lake and Salamoni responded to an anonymous tip that a man in a red shirt selling CDs in front of a convenience store had a gun. Cellphone video from the scene shows the officers putting Sterling on the ground, and one pulling his weapon on Sterling. According to a Facebook post by the Baton Rouge Police Department, both officers have been placed on administrative leave following the shooting, "per standard procedure." It has yet to be determined if either officer will be let go from the department.
The Justice Department has already opened a civil rights probe into the shooting. The probe could potentially lead to a civil case against the city of Baton Rouge, as in the case of Ferguson, Missouri, or could end with indictments against either of the officers individually, as with Michael Slager, the former South Carolina police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott in 2015.
Salamoni, 28, apparently comes from a family of Baton Rouge police officers. His father, Captain Noel Salamoni, is the commander of the department’s Special Operations Division, according to the department's website, and was apparently once in the running for the position of police chief. His mother, Melissa Salamoni, was the violent crime and crime scene commander before her retirement last month.
Lake, also 28, was previously placed on administrative leave for his involvement in another shooting in late 2014. Kevin Knight opened fire on officers while attempting to flee the scene after his girlfriend called police. Knight received several gunshot wounds to the torso, but lived. Lake received a Certificate of Commendation at a departmental awards ceremony just a few months later, although it's unclear if the shooting incident is related.
The two young officers will be the center of national attention for months, potentially years, as the investigation and potential case against them proceeds. More information should be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, their case will be tried in the court of public opinion.