BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – A gunman killed three police officers and wounded three others in Louisiana’s capital on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the fatal police shooting of a black man there sparked nationwide protests, one of which led to the massacre of five Dallas policemen.
The suspect, described by a U.S. government official as having served in the Marine Corps, was himself shot to death minutes later in a gunfight with police who converged on the scene.
Two Baton Rouge Police Department officers and one sheriff’s deputy were killed, and one sheriff’s deputy was left critically wounded in what Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said began as an “ambush-style” attack on officers.
Another police officer and one other deputy suffered less severe wounds and were expected to survive.
Colonel Mike Edmonson, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said in a press conference that the gunman was believed to have acted alone, contrary to early reports that police may have been looking for other shooters.
Authorities did not name the suspect. But a U.S. government official told Reuters the gunman had been identified as Gavin Long, of Kansas City, Missouri. He was reported by other media to have been 29 years of age and black.
The government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said investigators have reason to believe an emergency-911 call may have been used to lure police into harm’s way. Another government source told Reuters that Long had been a member of the U.S. Marines, but his service record was not immediately known.
CBS News reported he was a Marine sergeant who was honourably discharged in 2010.
Authorities declined to offer any possible motive for the attack.
And it was not immediately clear whether there was a link between Sunday’s bloodshed and unrest over the police killings of two black men under questionable circumstances earlier this month – Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge on July 5, and Philando Castile, 32, near St. Paul, Minnesota on July 6.
President Barack Obama condemned the attack, vowed that justice would be done and called on Americans to focus on rhetoric and actions that united the country rather than divided it.
“We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence on law enforcement,” Obama said in televised remarks from the White House.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards called the shootings an “unspeakable, heinous attack” that served no purpose.
“There simply is no place for more violence. That doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t further the conversation, it doesn’t address any injustice, perceived or real. It is just an injustice in and of itself,” he told reporters in Baton Rouge.
Obama has sought to balance concerns about police abuses, largely against African-Americans, while paying tribute to fallen officers.
He attended a memorial service last week for the five Dallas police officers killed by a black former U.S. soldier who opened fire at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest on July 7 denouncing the Sterling and Castile slayings.
Those two killings and the reprisal attack on Dallas police by a suspect found to have embraced militant black nationalism renewed national tensions over racial justice and gun violence just as America’s presidential campaign was kicking into high gear. The Dallas gunman, Micah Johnson, 25, was killed by police deploying a bomb-carrying robot against him.
The wave of violence also has heightened security concerns across the country, notably in Cleveland and Philadelphia, hosts to this week’s Republican National Convention and next week’s Democratic National Convention, respectively, which are expected to formally nominate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the election.
Worries around convention
“We demand law and order,” Trump said in a Facebook posting Sunday afternoon.
In a statement, Clinton urged Americans to “stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities.”
The head of a Cleveland police union called on Ohio Governor John Kasich to declare a state of emergency and suspend laws allowing for the open carry of firearms during the Republican convention.
“I don’t care what the legal precedent is. I feel strongly that leadership needs to stand up and defend these police officers,” Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told Reuters in an interview.
Loomis said he was concerned about copycat shootings at the Republican convention.
A spokeswoman for Kasich said the governor did not have the power to suspend the open carry law.
Sunday’s shootings occurred about a mile from the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters, where dozens of people were arrested this month while protesting Sterling’s death. The 37-year-old African-American father of five was shot and killed at close quarters by law enforcement officers.
A witness to Baton Rouge shootings, Brady Vancel, told a CBS television affiliate he had seen a gunman, a second man in a red shirt lying in a parking lot and another gunman running away “as shots were being fired back and forth from several guns.”
He said the police arrived shortly after the gunfire began.
One of the injured officers was listed in critical condition at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, while another was in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Kelly Zimmerman said. The third was taken to another hospital where he was in fair condition.
Shocked community members lined the highway about a mile from the shootings, at the site of the protests against Sterling’s killing.
“It never hits home until it’s in your own living room,” said Redell Norman, an activist who attended the recent protests at police headquarters.
By Sam Karlin
Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Ian Simpson, Tim Gardner and Julia Edwards, Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball in Washington
Writing by Paul Simao
Editing by Mary Milliken
(Reuters) – The six Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers killed or wounded in an attack on Sunday morning ranged from a newcomer to the city police force to veteran officers, officials said, in the latest mass shooting to rock a U.S. city.
Three officers died and another was fighting for his life after the attack by a suspect who opened fire on them in the Louisiana state capital on Sunday morning.
The suspect, identified by a U.S. official as Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri, was believed to have acted alone.
Two city police officers, a 32-year-old with 10 years of service and a 41-year-old with just under a year on the force, died in the attack, said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. Also among the dead was an East Baron Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy, who was 45, said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
Authorities did not immediately release the names of the dead and wounded. But relatives and a man who said he was a former partner of one of the slain officers posted on Facebook and Twitter that he was Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson.
“Rest in Peace to my former partner and one of the best cops I’ve ever known… His name was Montrell Jackson!” Facebook user Marcus Tillman said in a post, which received more than 8,000 likes and 6,000 shares by midday on Sunday. “He was a black life that apparently didn’t matter to the one that took it!”
The Facebook page shows several pictures of a baby boy, and comments suggested that the child was Jackson’s son.
“Cuz, this is you all over again,” commenter Catina Williams Alexander wrote beneath the photo of the child. The Facebook page also includes a picture of a police badge, posted in 2015.
Baton Rouge television station WAFB, citing unnamed official sources, identified another of the slain officers as Matthew Gerald, 41. The Baton Rouge Police Department did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters to confirm the name.
A Facebook page belonging to Matthew Gerald in Baton Rouge featured images of law enforcement badges, and friends and family posted condolences on a page that appeared to belong to his wife.
Earlier in the day, Dechia Badeaux Gerald posted a news video of the shooting aftermath with the comment: “Everyone please pray!!! My husband along with others is out there.”
A 41-year-old sheriff’s deputy was in critical condition, “fighting for his life as we speak,” said Gautreaux.
In addition, one sheriff’s deputy was in surgery for non-life-threatening injuries, Gautreaux said. A 41-year-old Baton Rouge police officer, on the force for nine years, also received a non-life-threatening injury, Dabadie said.
“We are grieving for each other, we are grieving for our loss and we are grieving for our families,” Gautreaux told a news conference on Sunday.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Melissa Fares and Steve Gorman; Writing by Sharon Bernstein
Editing by Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney
(Reuters) – The gunman who killed three police officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been identified as a former U.S. Marine named Gavin Long, according to a government source with knowledge of the investigation.
Officials speaking publicly have not yet released the name of the suspected killer or any details, beyond saying they believed the single shooter was killed in the shootout.
Another source familiar with the investigation told Reuters Long, 29, was from Kansas City, Missouri. The source said there was reason to believe a 911 call may have been used to lure police to the shooting scene, and that the possibility it had been a conspiracy was being examined by investigators.
Long, who was black, was affiliated with the anti-government New Freedom Group, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person briefed on the investigation. A spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, said she had no information about that.
Long served in the Marines for five years, from August 2005 to August 2010, according to a report in the New York Times, citing Yvonne Carlock, the deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Marines. Long was deployed to Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009, the Times reported.
CBS News reported that Long left the Marines with an honourable discharge in 2010 with the rank of sergeant.
Public records show Long had lived in Kansas City and Grandview, Missouri. He had also lived in San Diego and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Long was on the University of Alabama dean’s honour list in 2012, school records show.
Missouri court records show he divorced his wife in 2011, with no children at the time. There was no criminal record for him in Missouri.
Long was a defendant in a case involving delinquent city taxes. It was filed in March and was dismissed in June, according to court records.
Brady Vancel, a witness to the Baton Rouge shooting on Sunday, said on CNN that he ran into the suspect, who was dressed in black, a few minutes before the police officers were shot. The man was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and wearing a ski mask, Vancel said.
The gunman “looked up and he saw me. We stopped, I froze, he froze for a second, and he turned around and ran in the opposite direction the same time I turned around and ran in the opposite direction,” Vancel said.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Ian Simpson
Editing by Peter Cooney and Tiffany Wu
(Reuters) – Three police officers were shot to death and three others wounded in Baton Rouge on Sunday, less than two weeks after a black man was killed by police in the Louisiana capital, sparking nationwide protests.
The officers appeared to have been caught off guard, according to a recording of police radio that began with calm exchanges and then quickly turned into frantic shouting.
In the first 14 minutes of the recording, there were several instances of “officer down” or “deputy down.”
This is a timeline of how events unfolded. (All in Central time)
- 8:40 a.m.: A police officer at Airline Highway and Old Hammond Highway in Baton Rouge alerts a police dispatcher that a woman called to report a man with a coat and assault rifle behind a store, according to the police recording. The store is later identified as B-Quick Convenience store, around a mile away from the Baton Rouge Police headquarters.
- 8:41 a.m.: First instance of “officer down” comes one minute into the recording. “Oh there’s shots fired! Officer down!” a male voice shouts. “Shots fired! Officer down! Got a city officer down.” Replies, though largely unintelligible due to the quality of the recording, appeared calm. The officer then says: “Don’t know where the subject’s shooting from!”
- 8:43 a.m.: Police have yet to locate the shooter. A male officer says: “He is not in sight. Possible sniper.”
- 8:44 a.m.: Police appears to request air support. A female voice says: “Subject’s supposed to be at Benny’s Car Wash. Still shooting.”
- 8:45 a.m.: Barely a minute later, another officer is injured. “I’m hit, left arm, argh,” a male officer says. The response, from a female voice, was just two syllables, “10-four,” a phrase commonly used in law enforcement to denote acknowledgement.
- 8:46 a.m.: A male voice says: “Officer down. I don’t know whose radio is this, but officer down.”
- 8:47 a.m.: An officer says something unintelligible, though sirens could be heard in the background. Another officer says: “All units be advised, shots are still being fired.”
- 8:49 a.m.: An officer shouts. He is unintelligible aside from “officer down.” Another officer says, “Right here, officer down. “Two down back here,” a different officer says. A fourth voice then says some officers are being taken to hospital, “I’ll be trailing them, alright?”
- 8:50 a.m.: “I’m behind the (unintelligible), I’ve got one down,” an officer says. A male voice says, “Transporting an officer.”
- 8:51 a.m.: “We have an officer down,” a male voice says, requesting evacuation.
- 8:52 a.m.: Officers relay witness accounts of the shooter: “He had a mask on,” “all black, carrying AR,” a reference to the AR-15 assault rifle.
- 8:53 a.m.: “We’ve got a deputy down!”
- 8:54 a.m.: “Deputy down” heard again.
- 9:06 a.m.: A video on social media from an eyewitness(@Customthoughts_) at a Walmart store in Old Hammond/Airline shows a police chopper circling the area with caption: “They just going in a circle looking for the people who was shooting”.
- 9:56 a.m.: An image on social media from eyewitness (@Customthoughts_) shows police officers behind police cars with caption: “Police hiding behind their cars with their guns”.
- 10:00 a.m.: Baton Rouge Police Corporal L’Jean Mckneely Jr tells media: “We’re securing the area with a deceased suspect, a suspect that has been killed. We’re making sure there aren’t any explosives in the area.” Mckneely says police sent a robot inside the B-Quick Convenience Store near the suspect’s body to determine if there are any explosives in the store, according to media reports.
- Around 12 p.m.: East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office describes the scene on Airline Highway as “active” and advised the public to steer clear of the area.
The Facebook post also says: “Three law enforcement are confirmed dead, three others injured. One suspect is dead, law enforcement believes two others may be at large. Asking the public if they see anything suspicious please call 911 immediately.”
By Angela Moon and Ethan Lou
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford
Editing by Mary Milliken
(Reuters) – Before the killing of three law enforcement officers on Sunday and the fatal shooting of a black man by police earlier this month, Baton Rouge was a city divided between the police and the policed.
Tensions in Louisiana’s state capital go back years. For many residents, the police force has been viewed as overly aggressive and unrepresentative of a city where over half the 230,000 residents are black and where racial problems date back decades.
Minorities are “very wary of police and often afraid of them,” says Michele Fournet, a veteran Baton Rouge criminal defence lawyer.
It was unclear whether there was a link between Sunday’s shootings and the recent unrest over the police killings of black men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. Police told CNN the shootings on Sunday did not appear to be race-related.
Officers were responding to a call of shots fired when they were shot in what Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden described as “an ambush-style deal.” Three officers were killed and three others wounded. The gunman is dead.
“It is unspeakable that these men risking their lives to protect and serve this community were taken out the way that they were,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told a news briefing.
“The hatred just has to stop,” he said.
Baton Rouge has been one of America’s most crime-plagued cities. In 2015, it had 60 homicides, 98 rapes and 809 robberies, among the highest rates of violent crime for a U.S. city of its size.
In recent years, local activists have urged law enforcement to spend more time in neighbourhoods as part of “community policing.”
Many would also like the city to hire more black officers.
Last month, the city’s police department held a second “summer camp day” with local children, which was seen by some residents as an effort to improve relations with the community.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. “Wanted the community to be able to interact with the police in a positive manner,” said Simone Higginbotham, a 45-year-old resident who publishes a free, local magazine.
“He wanted to go back to the times when kids wanted to grow up and become police officers.”
Calls for community policing have been growing across the country since the 2014 police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
A wave of anti-police protests has spread, fuelled by a series of fatal encounters between police and members of minority groups.
Baton Rouge Consent Decree
A Baton Rouge police spokesmen said the department had made significant strides toward improving diversity on its force.
In 1980, when Baton Rouge was put under a federal consent decree to improve its minority recruiting, about 10 percent of the department’s 516 employees were black. As of June this year, 201 of 657 officers are black, or 30 percent, according to police department data.
Blacks made up about 55 percent of Baton Rouge’s population in 2010, according to U.S. government data.
Alton Sterling, the Baton Rouge man whose shooting death at the hands of police on July 5 triggered protests across the country, had peddled CDs for years, and law enforcement officers would have known he was not a threat if they were more familiar with the area, local residents said.
One officer is notorious for harassing local black residents to the point where he has been given a street nickname of “Bro Stupid,” said Burnell Williams, who works with at-risk youth and ex-prisoners for the nonprofit group Against All Odds.
Michael Mitchell, 33, a motivational speaker and minister who lives near the store where Sterling was killed, said relations had long been strained between the police and the neighbourhood.
“It added a match to fuel that was already there,” he said.
In Dallas, where five police officers were killed on July 7 during an otherwise peaceful protest over the Louisiana and Minnesota shootings, Police Chief David Brown told reporters that community policing was the best way to deter crime and protect officers.
Brown, a 33-year department veteran, noted that 2015 was the 12th year of crime reduction in Dallas, more than any other major American city.
Police “have done this by also protecting the civil rights of our citizens,” Brown said.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington and Chris Prentice in New York
Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Baton Rouge, La.
Editing by Jason Szep, Peter Cooney and Paul Simao