BATON ROUGE – Authorities continue their investigation Monday into the ambush and murder of three law enforcement officials and the shooting injuring of three others the day before.
> ALERT: Authorities released vivid information about the attack on officers at a 2 p.m. news conference Monday. Click HERE for the story.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said in his latest remarks, the shooter sought out police.
Two Baton Rouge Police officers and an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputy were shot and killed when Gavin Long, 29, opened fire as officers arrived to calls of Long walking around masked with a gun near Hammond Aire Plaza just after 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Three others – two deputies and a city police officer – were shot and injured. A deputy, Nicholas Tullier, was on life support as of Monday, the sheriff said.
(Long’s) movements, his direction, his attention was on police officers,” Edmonson said, indicating Long was on a mission to kill police.
Long, of Kansas City, Missouri, was a former Marine. He was killed at the scene. WBRZ learned Monday morning Long was identified by his fingerprints. Long was identified as the shooter Sunday afternoon.
Social media posts indicate Long was an active member of an anti-government group called New Freedom Group. He carried out his attack in Baton Rouge on his birthday. Videos on his YouTube also indicate he was in Dallas around the time officers there were killed in an attack on July 7. The timing appears coincidental; Long is not connected to the Dallas attack.
Long acted alone, authorities have said. Police dispatch recordings indicate police responding to the initial, chaotic shooting scene thought there were multiple shooters. Listen to the dispatch HERE. Two people taken into custody in West Baton Rouge immediately after the attack in Baton Rouge Sunday were questioned and released.
Investigators will spend Monday interviewing people who had contact with the gunman. Edmonson said officials are still looking for others who may have had contact with Long and asked that anyone with information contact State Police.
The shooting Sunday was less than a mile from Baton Rouge Police headquarters – an already stressed area that has been the center of protests after the officer-involved shooting death of Alton Sterling on July 5.
Killed Sunday by Long were BRPD officers Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald along with sheriff’s deputy Brad Garafola.
Matthew Gerald and his wife have a 3-year-old daughter together and he adopted his wife’s daughter from a previous relationship. Gerald and his wife Dechia celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported.
“[Gerald] was a good family man, good cop, loving husband,” family friend Skye Turner said.
Gerald was a former Marine and Blackhawk crew chief in the Army. He joined the department four months ago.
Baton Rouge Police officer Montrell Jackson was described as a “gentle giant” by his father-in-law. Jackson lived in rural Livingston Parish. Lonnie Jordan told reporters Jackson was sizable, but carried himself with a peaceful disposition.
“[Jackson] was “always about peace,” Jordan said in a report on the Associated Press wire.
Like most law enforcement officials in the city, Jackson had been working long hours since the death of Alton Sterling sparked protests. In a Facebook post that has since been removed, Jackson wrote about the toll the job has taken – posting as an African American, he received stares out of uniform and stares when he wore the uniform. Click the link to read the WBRZ.com story on Jackson and the post.
Slain sheriff’s deputy Brad Garafola was described as a family man by people who knew him. Garafola was never seen without at least one of his four children, who range in age from 7 to 21, the AP reported.
[Garafola] was “the epitome of a peace officer,” neighbor Rhonda Smith told the Associated Press.
Garafola had been with the sheriff’s office for 24 years when he was shot and killed with Gerald and Jackson Sunday morning.
A man in Baton Rouge played taps in his front yard Sunday evening.
In a national TV interview Monday morning on FOX News, the sheriff said one deputy is on life support in the hospital, suffering from gun shot wounds to the head and torso. A second depuy was shot in the arm. Both deputies underwent surgery Sunday, the sheriff said.
The sheriff did not release the names of the deputies hospitalized on TV, but the department identified the deputies Sunday as Bruce Simmons, 51, and Nicholas Tullier, 41. Simmons has been with the department for 23 years. Tullier has been with the department for 18 years.
Officers responded to reports of a man armed with an assault rifle at the B-Quik store on Airline Highway near its intersection with Old Hammond Highway at around 9 a.m. Sunday.
Dispatch audio records what happened next as officers were reported down when a man at the scene opened fire, shooting “indiscriminately,” according to a witness at the scene. Several officers were hit and a massive manhunt began in the area as authorities searched for suspects that were described as wearing all black or camouflage clothing.
Police worked an active shooting scene at the B-Quik gas station into the afternoon. Law enforcement confirmed Long died somewhere close to the store after he was involved in a gunfight with officers at an Airline Highway car wash. Authorities have said Long was clad in all black and wore a mask to conceal his face. A witness reported seeing him run toward the scene of the eventual shooting with a rifle in his hands. Police sent a robot into the store to check for explosives after the scene was contained and Long was dead.
“We believe that the person who shot and killed our officers that he was the person that was shot and killed at the scene,” State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said Sunday.
An alert went out to the public to stay indoors and contact authorities should they spot any suspicious activity. Two men were stopped in Addis after someone said they were initially spotted heading into the Port Allen Walmart to change clothes. They were stopped by police on LA-1 South at a gas station where the men were taken into custody. A witness at the scene said the vehicle had Texas plates. The individuals were questioned and later released.
“To me this is not so much about gun control as it is about what’s in men’s hearts,” said EBRSO’s Sid Gautreaux at the beginning of a Sunday afternoon news conference.
While officials said the lone gunman was dead, authorities asked people to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity by calling the toll-free number 1-800-CALL-FBI.
At the news conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke strongly against the hatred he feels is behind the shooting. He declared the state will avail itself of all federal resources needed to bring about justice in the days after the shooting. He called the shooting “an absolutely unspeakable heinous attack.”
“The violence and the hatred has to stop,” said Gov. Edwards. “There simply is no place for more violence. That doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t further the conversation.”
Leaders of the Baton Rouge religious community held a press conference at 2 p.m. at the Triple S convenience store on North Foster Drive. That store was the site of an officer-involved shooting that left a black man dead in the early morning hours of July 5. Police said they have yet to establish a motive that connects the shootings to recent protests or the death of Alton Sterling. Saturday night saw no protests in connection with that shooting.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation shortly after the three officers were attacked and was in contact with authorities, local leadership and the governor at several points during the day. He addressed the shooting at 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
“We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric, we need to temper our words and open our hearts,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a statement from the White House condemned the attack.
“I condemn, in the strongest sense of the word, the attack on law enforcement in Baton Rouge. For the second time in two weeks, police officers who put their lives on the line for ours every day were doing their job when they were killed in a cowardly and reprehensible assault. These are attacks on public servants, on the rule of law, and on civilized society, and they have to stop,” said a statement from President Obama. “I’ve offered my full support, and the full support of the federal government, to Governor Edwards, Mayor Holden, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Baton Rouge Police Department. And make no mistake – justice will be done.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark said autopsies will be performed on the deceased officers on Monday.