Mourners in Baton Rouge raise their fists during a night rally on Monday in honour of Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police while selling CDs outside the convenience store. Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP The shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota sparked ‘Black Lives Matter’ rallies across the US, with the Dallas event ending in in the sniper deaths of five police officers on July 7. Photo: Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News
Authorities stop a car near the scene of a shooting in Baton Rouge on Sunday. Photo: Mike Kunzelman/AP
Baton Rouge police block Airline Highway after police were shot on Sunday. Photo: Max Becherer/AP
Baton Rouge police officers patrol a road block in Baton Rouge after colleagues were shot on Sunday. Photo: Mike Kunzelman/AP
Baton Rouge police victims: (clockwise from left): Montrell Jackson with his son. Photo: Twitter/@BritniDWrites; Matthew Gerald. Photo: Twitter/@WAFB; East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola. Photo: Twitter/@TRex21 Photo: Social Media
As it happened: Three police officers shot dead in Baton Rouge
Less than two weeks after police shot a black man in Baton Rouge, sparking outrage across America and leading to the Dallas police shootings, three police officers have been shot dead and three were wounded in the Louisiana capital. #BatonRouge Police: We believe there are “multiple suspects” and “one suspect is deceased” https://t上海龙凤419/LyKgkW1pLihttps://t上海龙凤419/sHy7b71uBy— CNN (@CNN) July 17, 2016
Police have not yet confirmed the identity of the gunman but US media outlets have reported the attack was carried out by Gavin Eugene Long, from Kansas City, Missouri, on his 29th birthday.
An unnamed official told the Los Angeles Times that Long was a “black separatist”.
CBS News reported that Long had served in the Marine Corp and left the Marines in 2010 with an honorable discharge. His final Marine rank was E-5 (sergeant), CBS reported.
Other reports suggest Long had been a dean’s list student at the University of Alabama. He was previously married, but divorced in 2011.
Police said they received a 911 call early on Sunday morning about a “suspicious person walking down the Airline Highway with an assault rifle”.
Investigators reportedly said there was reason to believe the 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.
US Vice-President Joe Biden, in Melbourne on Monday as part of a four-day visit to Australia, condemned the attack. He said the shooting was a “despicable act” and extended sympathy to the families of the officers killed.
He said it was unclear who had made an emergency call.
Officers arrived minutes after the call and were fired upon by a man, who was dressed all in black and had his face concealed.
In footage sent to a Baton Rouge television station by a woman who said she saw the shooting, a woman can heard saying that she saw a man with “a mask on, looking like a ninja”.
The woman says: “He’s about to start popping again. Oh my God!”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards condemned the “absolutely unspeakable heinous attack” on the police.
“We have to do better. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and the people who carried out this act … do not represent the people of Baton Rouge or the state of Louisiana,” he said.
“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.”
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said two Baton Rouge police officers, aged 32 and 41, as well as a 45-year-old sheriff’s deputy, were killed.
US media have identified the three police officers killed in the shootout as Montrell Jackson, 32, Matthew Gerald, 41, and Brad Garafola.
Three officers were also injured. A 41-year-old officer is in critical condition, while two sheriff’s deputies, aged 41 and 51, were less seriously wounded.
Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said he had spoken to officials from the White House, who offered to assist in any way possible.
“It’s touched, basically, people all across the country,” he told WAFB in a telephone interview. “The phones have not stopped ringing.”
Mr Holden could not confirm reports from various media outlets that as many as seven officers had been wounded.
“In the word ‘community’ is the word ‘unity’,” Mr Holden said. “If this is not a defining moment for us, to bridge the divide and come out with a unified voice, than I don’t know what is.”
President Barack Obama was briefed about the shooting and asked to be updated throughout the day, according to the White House, which said officials there were in touch with authorities in Baton Rouge.
He pleaded for calm and understanding and offered condolences for the three police officers killed and praise for law enforcement officers, expressing his “respect and gratitude” for their work, the Washington Post reported.
But his main message was broadly directed to a country that seems increasingly on edge and specifically to the two candidates trying to replace him.
“We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric,” Mr Obama said. “We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts. All of us.
“A bullet need happen only once. But for peace to work, we need to be reminded of its existence, again and again and again.”
Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police union, said: “When police officers have to worry about citizens committing unprovoked acts of violence against them, it makes it more difficult for them to interact with citizens and that is a key factor in law enforcement.”
Sunday’s deaths brought the total number of officers killed in the line of duty to 30 so far this year, up from about 16 at this point last year. The average mid-year total is 25, according to FBI data.
Two bailiffs, both deputised by the sheriff, were killed in a Michigan courthouse last week.
Mobile phone video allegedly taken as Sunday’s shooting unfolded and aired by television station WAFB showed police vehicles descending on a petrol station while gunfire echoed in the background.
Mark Clements, who lives two blocks behind the nearby Hammond Aire shopping plaza, said he heard 10 to 12 gunshots coming from that direction about 8.40am.
He was letting his dogs out in his backyard when he heard the gunfire, followed by sirens and helicopters.
A reporter for the local news channel WFAB who was at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Centre, where the injured officers were taken, said the flag outside the hospital was already flying at half mast.
As events unfolded, the Louisiana Governor issued the following statement via Twitter. #lagov on the shooting of law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge today: pic.twitter上海龙凤419m/BU3B4Iznbe— Gov John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) July 17, 2016
The attack happened in a region still on edge after a white police officer fatally shot Alton Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store on July 5.
Graphic video images showed one officer shooting Mr Sterling five times at close range and the other taking something from his pocket as he was dying.
The shooting of Mr Sterling and Philando Castile, 32, near St Paul, Minnesota, on July 6 sparked “Black Lives Matter” protests over alleged police brutality against African Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York.
The protests stretched for days in Baton Rouge, with at least 15 people outside police headquarters at most times since Mr Sterling’s death.
The largest protest occurred on June 9, when people lined Airport Highway carrying signs, singing and chanting.
During the protests in the city, more than 100 people were arrested, and some in the region have criticised police for their aggressive response to demonstrators.
Baton Rouge said that they responded in that way to protests because they had received a threat to law enforcement officials.
Police said that a teenager accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers. Officials said that they felt this threat was credible enough that it shaped their response to protests.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have sued the Baton Rouge police and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office for their response to the protests, accusing law enforcement officials of using excessive force.
C. Denise Marcelle, a Democrat member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, pleaded with residents to stay home and not protest in Baton Rouge following the latest shooting.
She said the timing of the shooting was devastating for Baton Rouge.
A former Baton Rouge city councilwoman, she was in church when the shooting broke out.
“My pastor came up to me and asked me to pray the prayer of peace and unity,” she said. “I got up and led the prayer, and that was right around the same time that this incident happened.
“I’m pretty shaken up that at the same time I was praying for peace someone was killing our officers. It has to stop.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has called for police to end racial profiling, bringing the issue to national attention ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
The wave of violence 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 November election.
In a Facebook posting on Sunday afternoon Mr Trump said, “We demand law and order.”
Washington Post, Fairfax Media
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