Less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police during a confrontation that sparked nightly protests that reverberated nationwide, a former Marine dressed in black and carrying extra ammunition shot and killed three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers Sunday. Three other officers were wounded, one critically and police said the gunman was killed at the scene.
Just days earlier, one of the slain officers had posted a passionate Facebook message about the challenges of police work in the current environment. President Barack Obama urged Americans to cease using inflammatory words and actions. According to reports, the gunman was identified as Gavin Long of Kansas City, who had his 29th birthday on Sunday.
Long, who was black, served in the Marines from 2005 to 2010, reaching the rank of sergeant. According to military records, Long deployed to Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009. Although he was believed to be the only person who fired at officers, authorities were investigating whether he had assistance.
State police spokesman Major Doug Cain said “We are not ready to say he acted alone.” Two “persons of interest” were detained for questioning in the nearby town of Addis. However they were later released without any charges being filed.
Long was awarded several medals while in the military, including one for good conduct, and received an honorable discharge. His occupational expertise was listed as “data network specialist.” Authorities did not discuss the gunman’s motive or any relationship to the wider police conflicts.
The shooting began at a gas station on Airline Highway and according to radio traffic, Baton Rouge police answered a report of a man with an assault rifle, when they were suddenly met by gunfire. For several long minutes, they did not know where it was coming from. According to WRAL news, of the two officers who survived the shooting, one was hospitalized in critical condition, and the other was in fair condition.
Hospital officials said another officer was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Two of the slain officers were from the Baton Rouge Police Department: 32-year-old Montrell Jackson, who had been on the force for a decade, and 41-year-old Matthew Gerald, who had been there for less than a year. The third fatality was Brad Garafola, 45 and a 24-year veteran of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.
Jackson, who was black, posted a message on Facebook on July 8, just three days after the death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling. In the message, Jackson said he was physically and emotionally tired and expressed that while in uniform, he gets nasty looks. When he’s out of uniform, he said, some people consider him a threat.
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