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Baton Rouge reels after Sunday’s ambush murders of three police officers

July 18, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Now back to this country and the latest round of violence involving police.

Last week, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the site of protests following the police killing of Alton Sterling. Yesterday saw an ambush that left three officers killed and three wounded.

Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mourners laid flowers today outside the Baton Rouge gas station where Sunday’s slaughter took place. And investigators confirmed the attack was definitely planned.

COL. MIKE EDMONSON, Superintendent, Louisiana State Police: There is no doubt whatsoever that these officers were intentionally targeted and assassinated. It was a calculated act against those who work to protect this community every single day.

JEFFREY BROWN: The gunman was former Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri, who served in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2010, including six months in Iraq.

He carried out the attack on his 29th birthday, before dying in a shoot-out with police. Long had previously posted messages on social media saying he was fed up with the treatment of African-Americans.

GAVIN LONG: You got to fight back. That’s the only way a bully knows to quit. He doesn’t know words.

JEFFREY BROWN: The slain officers were identified as sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola, and police officers Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald. Their killing came less than two weeks after the death of Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by Baton Rouge police during a scuffle.

Sterling’s death and the killing of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, triggered protests nationwide. After a protest in Dallas, a sniper shot dead five police officers, saying he wanted revenge for police killings of black men.

Today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned the bloodshed during a conference of black law enforcement officers in Washington.

LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. Attorney General: And we are determined to do everything that we can to bridge divides, to heal the rifts and to restore trust.

JEFFREY BROWN: The killings rippled through the presidential campaign as well. Democrat Hillary Clinton said today there can be no justification for killing police. And Republican Donald Trump blamed President Obama’s leadership and said, “We demand law and order.”

And from Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge, we’re joined now by the superintendent of Louisiana state police, Colonel Michael Mike Edmonson.

And, first, our condolences to you and members of your force. I know this is all very fresh. Can you tell us the mood there? How have your officers and community responded?

COL. MIKE EDMONSON: Well, I think they’re doing an incredible job.

These police officers, certainly the ones that we talked about in the press conference today, those police officers, the two Baton Rouge city police officers that were killed, the one East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy, the one that is fighting for his life now, true heroes.

It was an ordinary Sunday. And I think what took place from 8:40 that morning and beyond was nothing less than extraordinary. The mood is somber. It’s sad, but I can promise you that my police officers and my state troopers are committed, they’re dedicated, they’re professional and they’re ready to do the job that’s called upon. They’re public servants. That’s what they do.

JEFFREY BROWN: You said at the press conference that the police officers were assassinated, that it was clearly deliberate. What tells you that? Why were these officers targeted?

COL. MIKE EDMONSON: It was intentional and it was calculated. As I watched the film and the video that we had from the scene on that particular — just yesterday morning, not even 30 hours ago, a little more than 30 hours ago, was a gentleman, the shooter that went to that location.

And based on his actions and based on what he did at that location, he was targeting specifically police officers. He was amongst the civilians. He saw civilians in the area. He didn’t even engage them. He discounted them. He didn’t even look at them. He went specifically for a location of a Baton Rouge city police car. He was engaged on that police car.

When no one was in there, he backed off, and he went back around, went to another location, which was right next door to that, parked his car, went towards a Baton Rouge police officer that was vacuuming his car before. He had left. At that point, police starting being called in that area because people see someone with a gun.

As they’re responding, he has backtracked around one of the side buildings, and he engages two Baton Rouge police officers. He kills them. He engages a sheriff’s deputy. The sheriff’s deputy was going back to one of those police officers who had been shot just to try to render first aid. He kills him.

He then moves around, works himself back around to the other side, engages a sheriff’s deputy who was in his car, shot through that car, and that is the one that is grasping for his life right now. And that’s when he was shot and killed by Baton Rouge SWAT.

His intentions were clear. You can see it on the tape. You can watch it unfold as he moves forward. They were deliberate and they were calculated. No doubt in our mind he was aiming for police officers.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, that’s his intentions. There is still a lot of questions of his motives. What questions do you have? Are you sure, first of all, that it was just him? Do you think that perhaps there were others involved? Do you know why he came to Baton Rouge?

COL. MIKE EDMONSON: A lot of unanswered questions.

What we clearly do know is that the young individual is a shooter, that the Baton Rouge police department SWAT team shot and killed, was indeed the individual who killed those police officers. We believe him to be acting alone in that particular scenario.

But we want to find out what brought him to Baton Rouge, what brought him to that location and what brought him to kill those police officers? We have got to backtrack that car. We have got to go to 8:40 yesterday morning and go backwards and try to work that timeline. Where did the car come from, where did it travel to, what are the cities he go to, why was he in Baton Rouge? Was he actually looking for the locations?

Was he trying to find locations where police officers were? And while he was here, who else was he talking to? For those unanswered questions, we will look at social media and we will starting filing each of those. It’s a large puzzle, a lot of pieces. We just need to put it together.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, excuse me for interrupting you, because you referred to other cities that he went to. There are reports that he was in Dallas.

COL. MIKE EDMONSON: We’re hearing all of those.

And that’s why I say we need to look at the footprint of that particular vehicle, find out where it went prior to 8:40 that morning, work it as far back as we can, and try to find out was anyone else involved, was he looking at other locations, what other possible crimes he’s committed, how do he get those guns, all the things that need to be to put that puzzle together, so that we can completely tell the story.

Let me tell you something. Those three, those three police officers, they deserve that we get it right.

JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, if I could, because there’s so much talk today around the country about how police are responding to these shootings, are you changing your procedures at all in terms of how your officers respond to emergencies, for example?

COL. MIKE EDMONSON: I wouldn’t do anything different than what I have seen.

I have been a police officer for 36 years. I have been superintendent for nine. The foundation of our training is solid. It’s built around principles. I think what we need to do, every time there’s an incident anywhere in this country and around the world that involves police, we take it, and work through it in Louisiana.

We ask our officers, how would you act in this situation? And we talk those things through. That type of training has got to continue. But I believe the training that we have, that foundation is there. We just need to build upon it.

We need to go wherever it takes us, any other thing we can do, because here’s the deal. You can’t get enough training. You can’t get enough talking about scenarios to where you can continually to be proactive. I think that’s what the public expects from us. And that’s certainly what we need to do.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Colonel Michael Edmonson, thank you very much.

COL. MIKE EDMONSON: Thank you, sir. God bless you. And we need you. We need your prayers, please. Tell the country, please pray for us. We need it.

JEFFREY BROWN: Thank you.

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