Slain of­fi­cers all hail from same com­mu­nity

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - KEVIN MCGILL, CAIN BURDEAU AND CLAIRE GALOFARO

Fresh out of the po­lice acad­emy, Matthew Ger­ald was so proud to bring his cruiser home that he stood in the drive­way, wip­ing it down un­der the hot Louisiana sun. His neigh­bour, Ash­ley Poe, watched as he flicked the blue lights on and off, on and off.

Poe and her hus­band shared a laugh. The 41-year-old former sol­dier and Marine looked like an ex­cited kid. “It’s like liv­ing out the dream,” she said. Ger­ald got to live it only for a few months. He was one of three of­fi­cers gunned down in an am­bush Sun­day in Ba­ton Rouge, trau­ma­tiz­ing a na­tion al­ready on edge.

The of­fi­cers who died Sun­day all lived just out­side Denham Springs, a quiet bed­room com­mu­nity of 10,000, across the Amite River from Ba­ton Rouge, which has been in tur­moil for two weeks since the po­lice shoot­ing of Al­ton Ster­ling.

“You hear about th­ese things hap­pen­ing across the county to of­fi­cers just try­ing to de­fend us, but this brings it right here, to our home,” Livingston Par­ish Pres­i­dent Lay­ton Ricks said. “Th­ese are our fam­i­lies. Th­ese are good men. They’re the only line of de­fence be­tween good and evil. We say we don’t want to let this evil af­fect how we live our daily lives. But it does.”

The at­tack also killed 45-year-old Brad Garafola, an East Ba­ton Rouge Par­ish sher­iff ’s deputy and a fa­ther of four; and 32-year-old Mon­trell Jack­son, a 10-year vet­eran of the Ba­ton Rouge Po­lice Depart­ment with a new­born baby at home.

“The world is crazy right now. It is com­plete chaos,” Jack­son’s sis­ter-in-law said. “And it all needs to stop, ev­ery­thing. We all need peace.”

Three other of­fi­cers were wounded. One of them, Deputy Ni­cholas Tul­lier, re­mained in crit­i­cal con­di­tion Monday. The gun­man was killed at the scene.

Poe watched from the win­dow Sun­day morn­ing as a line of po­lice cars pulled up in front of Ger­ald’s house. She woke up her hus­band, a former city po­lice of­fi­cer.

“He said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘There’s units ev­ery­where, and you’ve told me that’s never a good sign,’” she said. They turned on the news. The gun­man shot Ger­ald and Jack­son first. Ger­ald was a Marine from 1994 to 1998. He later joined the army and served as a dec­o­rated sol­dier from 2002 to 2009, in­clud­ing three tours in Iraq. Less than a year ago, he joined the Ba­ton Rouge Po­lice Depart­ment.

He had a wife and two daugh­ters, Poe said, and was devoted to them. Poe said her 14year-old son was in­ter­ested in the mil­i­tary, and Ger­ald was al­ways ready to an­swer his ques­tions.

“He’d tell him how he was proud to pro­tect his coun­try,” she said. “It seemed like that was his pas­sion to do that.”

Jack­son’s fa­ther-in-law, Lonnie Jor­dan, called him a “gen­tle gi­ant” — tall and stout and for­mi­da­ble look­ing, but with a peace­ful dis­po­si­tion.

Jor­dan said his son-in-law had been work­ing long hours since Ster­ling was killed.

Jack­son posted on Face­book that he was phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally tired.

He wrote that while in uni­form he gets nasty looks and out of uni­form some con­sider him a threat.

“I swear to God I love this city,” he wrote, “but I won­der if this city loves me.”

The po­lice chief de­scribed at a news con­fer­ence how he had gone to the district where Jack­son worked just days ear­lier in an at­tempt to boost the spir­its of the of­fi­cers. In­stead Jack­son ended up giv­ing him the pep talk.

He had been on the force 10 years and had risen to the rank of cor­po­ral, said Kedrick Pitts, his half brother. He worked hard, some­times seven days a week.

He was funny and good-na­tured, Pitts said. He col­lected shoes, 500 pairs, in­clud­ing spe­cial Kobe Bryant and Michael Jor­dan lines.

But what he loved most was his wife and four-month-old son.

“He’s go­ing to grow up with­out a fa­ther,” said Jack­son’s sis­ter-in-law, Lau­ren Rose said. “But we’ll be there to give him me­mories and let him know how his dad was a great man, and how he died with hon­our . ... Hope­fully one day, he’ll be like his dad.”

At the con­ve­nience store Sun­day, Garafola tried to in­ter­vene and help the fallen of­fi­cers.

Sur­veil­lance video showed Garafola fir­ing at the gun­man from be­hind a dump­ster as bul­lets hit the con­crete around him, East Ba­ton Rouge Par­ish Sher­iff Sid Ge­treaux said.

“My deputy went down fight­ing. He re­turned fire to the very end,” the sher­iff said.

Garafola’s friends de­scribed him as a man com­mit­ted to pub­lic service and devoted to his fam­ily.

He had a wife and four chil­dren: a 21-yearold son, a 15-year-old daugh­ter, a 12-year-old son and a seven-year-old daugh­ter.

Sgt. Ger­ald Parker, a close friend, de­scribed him as a “jack of all trades” who en­joyed help­ing peo­ple in his neigh­bour­hood, like mend­ing their fences or mow­ing their lawns. He worked hard, often pick­ing up ex­tra hours.

“He was a man of strong char­ac­ter,” Parker said.

“All th­ese of­fi­cers are he­roes. Some peo­ple would run. But th­ese gen­tle­men leave their fam­i­lies know­ing some­thing can hap­pen.”

Tul­lier, a fa­ther of two teenage sons, is sur­rounded by fam­ily at the hos­pi­tal.

Carol Sue McManus, a rel­a­tive, said he’s a worka­holic who serves on two units, one pa­trol and the other mo­tor­cy­cle.

She said he was in­jured at one point when he was run over while es­cort­ing a fu­neral pro­ces­sion.

“I’m mad,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I wish all this mad­ness would stop.”

MARK BOSTER, TNS

Robert Osler, a po­lice chap­lain from New Jer­sey who came to of­fer sup­port, com­forts res­i­dent Stacey DeJohn who brought flow­ers to a me­mo­rial for the slain po­lice of­fi­cers on Monday.

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