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3 Baton Rouge officers dead, lone suspected shooter killed

By
Allen Cone and Shawn Price
Three law enforcement officers died and three others were injured in a shooting Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office said. Photo from Baton Rouge Police
Three law enforcement officers died and three others were injured in a shooting Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office said. Photo from Baton Rouge Police

BATON ROUGE, La., July 17 (UPI) -- Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers died and three others were injured as they responded to a report of a man with an assault weapon 12 days after police killed a man in the city, sparking protests, officials said Sunday.

The suspected lone shooter, who was killed by law enforcement, was identified as Gavin Long, a resident of Kansas City, Mo., who turned 29 on the day of the shooting, two sources told the Baton Rouge Advocate. Long, a former Marine, was deployed to Iraq was discharged as sergeant in 2010, the Pentagon confirmed to USA Today.

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Col. Mike Edmonson, head of the Louisiana State Police, said during an afternoon news conference there was "no active shooter" in Baton Rouge.

Two other suspects were taken into custody in West Baton Rouge Parish and were released late Sunday after being questioned by Baton Rouge police, WBRZ TV reported.

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Baton Rouge police identified their killed officers as Montrell Jackson, 32, a 10-year-veteran and Matthew Gerald, 41, an officer in the department for less than one year. An East Baton Rouge sheriff's deputy, Brad Garafola, 45, was identified by department spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks on Sunday evening. He was a 24-year veteran.

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All three men were married with children.

Deputy Nicholas Tullier, 41, a member of the sheriff's office for 18 years, was listed in critical condition at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and Bruce Simmons, 51, who has been with the sheriff's office for 23 years, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

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A Baton Rouge police officer also was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

Jackson was injured in 2007 trying to save a toddler from a burning building and about four months ago became a father of a child, Mason.

Marcus Brown, a cousin, described him as a "great police officer" who didn't complain about his job, even though he had been working extra hours lately.

Four days after the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by police, Jackson posted a plea on Facebook for calm.

"These are trying times. Please don't let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better," he wrote in a July 8 Facebook post shared by neighbor Kristi Vick Godal.

"We're grieving as a law enforcement community," said East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux at the press conference also attended by the governor, city police chief, head of state police and mayors. "We're grieving for each other. We're grieving for our loss and we're grieving for our families."

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He also said, "To me this is not so much about gun control as it is about what's in men's hearts."

Mark Clements, a resident in the area, told WBRZ he had let his dogs out in the yard shortly after 8:30 a.m. when he heard roughly 10 to 12 gunshots.

Dispatch reports obtained by the Baton Rouge Advocate show police were responding to a report of a man armed with an assault rifle near the B-Quik store on Airline Highway across from Hammond Aire Plaza.

About 8:45 a.m., an officer reported a "lady who came up and said there was a suspect walking with a [unintelligible] and an assault rifle out here behind the store."

It's unclear what lead to the exchange of gunfire, which resulted in the deaths of the three officers and Long.

Police originally had approached the suspect's body for several hours until a bomb unit checked for possible explosives, said L'jean Mckneely, spokesman for the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Long's military record matches an online website of Cosmo Setepenra, who reported he had been in Dallas during the protests and commented on the Sterling killing by an officer.

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He posted on Twitter at ConvosWithCosmo: "Since 2000, 149 people have died at the hands of police. To date no officer charged in any of those deaths."

The University of Alabama confirmed to the Advocate that Long was a student for one semester in 2012 and made the dean's list.

Federal, state and local authorities are investigating.

Louisiana Gov. Bel Edwards reacted to the news of the shooting, saying, "This is an unspeakable and unjustified attack on all of us at a time when we need unity and healing. Rest assured, every resource available to the State of Louisiana will be used to ensure the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice. For now, I'm asking all Louisianans to join Donna and me in praying for the officers who were involved and their families as the details continue to unfold."

During the news conference, he said: "The violent and the hatred has to stop. There simply is no place for more violence. That doesn't help anyone, it doesn't further the conversation."

President Barack Obama, in a statement, condemned the shooting as "cowardly and reprehensible," saying "justice will be done."

"For the second time in two weeks, police officers who put their lives on the line for ours every day were doing their job when they were killed in a cowardly and reprehensible assault. These are attacks on public servants, on the rule of law, and on civilized society, and they have to stop. And make no mistake – justice will be done," he said.

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"We may not yet know the motives for this attack, but I want to be clear: there is no justification for violence against law enforcement. None. These attacks are the work of cowards who speak for no one. They right no wrongs. They advance no causes."

During a televised statement, Obama cautioned about politicizing the incident and using divisive rhetoric -- without specifically mentioning the political conventions.

"We don't need inflammatory rhetoric, we need to temper our words and open our hearts," he said.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said in a statement "We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today. How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order."

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said in a statement "Today's devastating assault on police officers in Baton Rouge is an assault on all of us. There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who just put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities."

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. appeared shaken as he spoke to reporters. "This is not going to tarnish this city or this department," he said. "We will get through this."

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East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor Kip Holden, a black Democrat, made clear his support for local law enforcement. "We are one family, all seeking justice for all of our people."

The shooting comes 10 days after Sterling was shot dead by Baton Rouge police, renewing outrage nationwide over police relations with the black community. Sterling died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back.

Police said Sterling was shot after officers responded to an anonymous call about a black man in a red T-shirt who threatened the caller with a gun. Police said, "Sterling was shot during the altercation and died at the scene." Two officers were placed on administrative leave and an investigation was launched. Protesters said police used excessive force.

An emotional Veda Washington-Abusaleh , the aunt of Alton Sterling, told KLAF-TV, "Stop this killing. Stop this killing. Stop this killing. That's how this all started, with bloodshed. We don't want no more bloodshed."

On Tuesday, three people were arrested after Baton Rouge investigators alleged they were plotting to kill police in the city.

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On July 7, four officers of the Dallas Police Department and one from Dallas Area Rapid Transit died from injuries they received during a peaceful rally staged by participants in the Black Lives Matter movement, who were protesting the controversial shooting deaths of Sterling and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

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