Police: 3 officers fatally shot in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE, La. — Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers were killed and three others wounded Sunday, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police here in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests across the city that reverberated nationwide.
Police said the suspect was shot and killed at the scene. Authorities initially believed that two other assailants might be at large, but hours later said the dead gunman was the only person who fired at the officers.
However, a state police spokesman said investigators were unsure whether he had some kind of help from others.
“We are not ready to say he acted alone,” Major Doug Cain said. Two people were detained in the nearby town of Addis. Cain called them “persons of interests.”
The shooting – which took place just before 9 a.m., less than a mile from police headquarters – came amid escalating tensions across the country between the black community and police. The races of the suspect and the officers were not immediately known.
— The Advocate (@theadvocatebr) July 17, 2016
It was the fourth high-profile deadly encounter in the United States involving police over the past two weeks. The violence has left 12 people dead, including eight police officers, and sparked a national conversation over race and policing.
President Barack Obama said the slayings were attacks “on the rule of law and on civilized society, and they have to stop.” He said there was no justification for violence against law enforcement and that the attacks are the work of cowards who speak for no one.
The shooting began at a gas station on Airline Highway. According to radio traffic, Baton Rouge police answered a report of a man with an assault rifle and were met by gunfire. For several long minutes, they did not know where it was coming from.
The radio exchanges were made public Sunday by the website Broadcastify.
Nearly 2½ minutes after the first report of an officer getting shot, an officer on the scene is heard saying police do not know the shooter’s location.
Almost six minutes pass after the first shots are reported before police say they have determined the shooter’s location. About 30 seconds later, someone says shots are still being fired.
The recording lasts about 17 minutes and includes urgent calls for an armored personnel carrier called a BearCat.
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the shooter was identified as Gavin Long but had no details. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Gov. John Bel Edwards rushed to the hospital where the shot officers were taken.
“There simply is no place for more violence,” Edwards said. “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.”
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) July 17, 2016
From his window, Joshua Godwin said he saw the suspect, who was wearing all black with a ski mask, combat boots and extra bullets. He appeared to be running “from an altercation.”
Mike Spring awoke at a nearby house to a sound that he thought was from firecrackers. The noise went on for five to 10 minutes, getting louder.
Brady Vancel said the man looked like a pedestrian running with a rifle in his hand, rather than someone trained to move with a rifle.
Vancel said he had gone to work on a flooring job near the gas station when he heard semi-automatic gunfire and perhaps a handgun. He saw a man in a red shirt lying in an empty parking lot and “another gunman running away as more shots were being fired back and forth from several guns.”
On Sunday afternoon, more than a dozen police cars with lights flashing were massed near a commercial area of car dealerships and chain restaurants on the highway. Police armed with long guns stopped at least two vehicles driving away from the scene and checked their trunks.
That area was about a quarter of a mile from a gas station, where almost nightly protests had been taking place.
Five officers were rushed to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Ashley Mendoza said.
Of the two who survived the shooting, one was in critical condition and the other was in fair condition. Multiple police vehicles were stationed at the hospital, and a police officer with a long gun was blocking the parking lot at the emergency room.
One officer was sent to Baton Rouge General Medical Center and was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, spokeswoman Meghan Parrish said.
Officers and deputies from the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office were involved, Hicks said.
Each of the officers was married and had a family, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.
A Louisiana state representative identified one of the slain officers as Montrell Jackson, who had a 4-month-old child. Ted James said he knew Jackson and his family personally.
Police-community relations in Baton Rouge have been especially tense since the death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man killed by white officers July 5 after a scuffle at a convenience store. The killing was captured on widely circulated cellphone video.
It was followed a day later by the shooting death of another black man in Minnesota, whose girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath of his death on Facebook. The next day, a black gunman in Dallas opened fire on police at a protest about the police shootings, killing five officers and heightening tensions even further.
Thousands of people have protested Sterling’s death, and Baton Rouge police arrested more than 200 demonstrators.
Sterling’s nephew condemned the killing of the three officers.
Terrance Carter spoke Sunday to The Associated Press by telephone, saying the family just wants peace.
“My uncle wouldn’t want this,” Carter said. “He wasn’t this type of man.”