Authorities open up Baton Rouge shooting crime scene; officers identified

Authorities talk to the driver of a car near an area where several officers were shot while on duty less than a mile from police headquarters, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Mike Kunzelman)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WDTN/AP) — Authorities have opened up the area in Baton Rouge where three law enforcement officers were shot and killed.

The ground behind the convenience store and a nearby beauty supply store was still wet Sunday, apparently from being washed down by authorities following the investigation.

Three law enforcement officers were killed and three others wounded Sunday morning in a shooting near a gas station in Baton Rouge, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police here, sparking nightly protests across the city.

A Louisiana state representative has identified one of the three officers killed Sunday and said he had a 4-month-old child.

State Rep. Ted James Sunday gave the name of the dead officer as Montrell Jackson.

In this 2016 photo provided by Trenisha Jackson, her husband, Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson, holds his son Mason at a Father's Day event for police officers (Courtesy of Trenisha Jackson via AP)
In this 2016 photo provided by Trenisha Jackson, her husband, Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson, holds his son Mason at a Father’s Day event for police officers (Courtesy of Trenisha Jackson via AP)

James said he knows Jackson and his family personally and spoke to the family earlier Sunday.

A person familiar with the investigation has identified the second slain Baton Rouge police officer as Matthew Gerald, 41.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office has identified the third officer killed during a shooting in Baton Rouge as sheriff’s deputy Brad Garafola.

Casey Rayborn Hicks told The Associated Press Sunday that the slain deputy was 45-years-old and had been with the sheriff’s office for 24 years.

Gov. John Bel Edwards told media Sunday afternoon that the gunman committed, `’an absolutely unspeakable, heinous attack.”

Edward said the hatred has got to stop.

One suspect in the shooting was killed and law enforcement officials believe two others might still be at large, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. The city was on high alert, officials said.

East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola, 45. (Photo/East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office)
East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola, 45. (Photo/East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office)

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation says Baton Rouge shooter has been identified as Gavin Long, 29, from Kansas City, Missouri

The shooting — just before 9 a.m., less than 1 mile from police headquarters — comes amid spiraling tensions across the city — and the country — between the black community and police. The races of the suspects and the officers were not immediately known.

Gov. John Bel Edwards rushed to the hospital where the shot officers were taken.

“Rest assured, every resource available to the State of Louisiana will be used to ensure the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice,” Edwards said in a statement.

The shooting took place at a gas station near a fitness center on Airline Highway, Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean Mckneely Jr. said. The slain shooter’s body was next door, outside a fitness center. Police said they were using a specialized robot to check for explosives near the body.

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 Airline Highway, not far from police headquarters. Police armed with long guns on the road stopped at least two vehicles driving away from the scene and checked their trunks and vehicles before allowing them to drive away.

Matthew Gerald, 41. (Photo/Baton Rouge Police Department)
Matthew Gerald, 41. (Photo/Baton Rouge Police Department)

That area was about a quarter of a mile from a gas station where almost nightly protests had been taking place against the recent police shooting.

Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Don Coppola told The Associated Press earlier that the officers were rushed to a local hospital. Coppola said authorities are asking people to stay away from the area.

Multiple police units were stationed at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, where spokeswoman Ashley Mendoza said five patients from the police shooting, all “law enforcement professionals” had been taken. A police officer with a long gun was blocking the parking lot at the emergency room. Of the two who survived the shooting, one is in critical condition and the other is in fair condition.

Officers and deputies from the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office were involved, according to Hicks.

Police-community relations in Baton Rouge have been especially tense since the killing of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man killed by white officers earlier this month after a scuffle at a convenience store. The killing was captured on cellphone video and circulated widely on the internet.

It was followed a day later by the shooting death of another black man in Minnesota, whose girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath of his death on Facebook. Then on Thursday, a black gunman in Dallas opened fire on police at a protest about the police shootings, killing five officers and heightening tensions even further.

Over the weekend, thousands of people took to the streets in Baton Rouge to condemn Sterling’s death, including hundreds of demonstrators who congregated outside the police station. Authorities arrested about 200 people over the three-day weekend.

Michelle Rogers, 56, said the pastor at her church had led prayers Sunday for Sterling’s family and police officers, asking members of the congregation to stand up if they knew an officer.

Rogers said an officer in the congregation hastily left the church near the end of the service, and a pastor announced that “something had happened.”

“But he didn’t say what. Then we started getting texts about officers down,” she said.

Rogers and her husband drove near the scene, but were blocked at an intersection closed down by police.

“I can’t explain what brought us here,” she said. “We just said a prayer in the car for the families.”

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