Three Baton Rouge officers killed; suspect dead
BATON ROUGE, LA. — Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers investigating a report of a man with an assault rifle were killed Sunday, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police here in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests that reverberated nationwide.
Three other officers were wounded, one critically. Police said the suspect was killed at the scene.
Authorities said the dead shooter was the only person who fired at the officers, but they were unsure whether he had some kind of help from others, according to a state police spokesperson.
The shooter was identified as Gavin Long of Kansas City, who turned 29 on Sunday. Long, who was black, served in the Marines from 2005 to 2010, reaching the rank of sergeant. He deployed to Iraq from 2008 to 2009.
The shooting — which took place just before 9 a.m., less than a kilometre from police headquarters — came amid escalating tensions across the country between the black community and police. The races of the officers were not immediately known.
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 debate over race and policing.
President Barack Obama urged Americans to tamp down inflammatory words and actions.
“We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies attacks on law enforcement,” Obama said from the White House. “Every one right now should focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.”
Authorities initially believed that other assailants might be at large, but hours later said that no other active shooters were on the loose. They did not discuss the shooter’s motive or any relationship to the wider police conflicts.
The shooting began at a gas station on Airline Highway. The suspect’s body was next door, outside a fitness centre. Police said they were using a specialized robot to check for explosives near the body.
According to radio traffic, Baton Rouge police answered a report of a man with an assault rifle and were met by gunfire. For several minutes, they did not know where it was coming from.
The radio exchanges were made public Sunday by the website Broadcastify.
Nearly 2 ½ 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.
Nearly 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 armoured 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.”
A witness told television station WAFB that he saw a masked man in black shorts and shirt running from the scene where the three officers were killed.
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 leaving the scene and checked their trunks.
That area was about a half a kilometre from a gas station, where almost nightly protests had been taking place.
Each of the officers was married and had a family, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.
Police guard the emergency room entrance of Our Lady Of The Lake Medical Center, where wounded officers were brought in Baton Rouge.