Three officers killed, three injured in Baton Rouge shooting, sheriff’s office says

17 Jul 2016

Three officers killed, three injured in Baton Rouge shooting, sheriff’s office says

Three police officers were killed and at least three others injured in a shooting Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, according to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities said that one suspect has been killed, and the sheriff’s office said that they believe two other potential suspects may be at large. While the injured officers were taken to nearby hospitals, people who lived in the vicinity were ordered to hunker down and stay indoors.

Details about the shooting remained unclear by Sunday afternoon, and police did not immediately say whether they believe the officers were targeted or if they were injured during a law enforcement action. The shooting happened in a region still on edge after police fatally shot a man there, sparking heated protests that prompted a heavy law enforcement response that some have questioned as unnecessarily forceful.

Officers from the Baton Rouge police force as well as deputies from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office were involved in the shooting, authorities said, though they did not specify the agencies of the officers who were killed. Multiple officers from both agencies were injured in the shooting and transported to local hospitals, police said.

“This is an unspeakable and unjustified attack on all of us at a time when we need unity and healing,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said in a statement. “Rest assured, every resource available to the state of Louisiana will be used to ensure the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice.”

Edwards planned to speak more about the shooting at a news conference later Sunday, his office said.

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said he had spoken to officials from the White House, who offered to assist in any way possible.

“It’s touched, basically, people all across the country,” he told WAFB in a telephone interview just after noon. “The phones have not stopped ringing.”

Holden could not confirm reports from various media outlets that as many as seven officers had been wounded.

“In the word community is the word unity,” Holden said. “If this is not a defining moment for us, to bridge the divide and come out with a unified voice, than I don’t know what is.”

President Obama was briefed about the shooting and asked to be updated throughout the day, according to the White House, which said officials there were in touch with local authorities in Baton Rouge.

“When a police officer is shot or assaulted, it makes every single citizen in the country a little less safe,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police union. “When police officers have to worry about citizens committing unprovoked acts of violence against them it makes it more difficult for them to interact with citizens and that is a key factor in law enforcement.”

The three deaths Sunday brought the total number of officers killed in the line of duty to 30 so far this year — up from about 16 at this point last year. The average mid-year total, according to FBI data, is about 25. The tally this year has spiked significantly in recent days from three incidents just in recent days: Two bailiffs, both deputized by the sheriff there, were killed in a Michigan courthouse last week, not long after five police officers were fatally shot in Dallas.

Police in Baton Rouge told the Advocate that the bloodshed on Sunday was related to an active-shooter situation, but further details remained hazy.  “There is still an active scene,” an official told the Advocate. “They are investigating. Right now we are trying to get our arms around everything.”

Authorities said that the shooting, which occurred one mile from police headquarters, had been “contained,” but they were still asking people to remain indoors while they sought the two possible other suspects.

In a video sent to WAFB by someone who said she witnessed the shooting, a woman is heard saying that she saw a man with “a mask on looking like a ninja.” The woman, sounding panicked, said: “He’s about to start popping again. Oh my God!”

Another local woman told The Post that she was playing tennis with her two daughters and her husband when their game was interrupted by gunfire.

The woman, who asked to have her name withheld, was in a park about a mile from the shooting, one she chose because she thought it was located a safe distance from recent unrest. It was a beautiful morning, she said, until the gunfire erupted.

“It sounded like a shootout. After many rounds, we started to hear sirens and saw a police car driving fast down Drusilla Lane and then we got out of there,” she said. She added: “I feel trapped in our own home. I can’t take my kids out and I thought we would be safe here because we are close to a police station.”

Cell phone video allegedly taken as the shooting unfolded and aired by CBS affiliate WAFB shows police vehicles descending on a gas station while gunfire echoes in the background.

Mark Clements, who lives two blocks behind the nearby Hammond Aire shopping plaza, said he heard 10 to 12 gunshots coming from that direction around 8:40 a.m. He was letting his dogs out in his backyard when he heard the gunfire, followed by sirens and helicopters.

His neighborhood, known as Tara, has been feeling the tension over police shootings since officers fatally shot Alton Sterling earlier this month outside a convenience store.

Sterling’s death, partially captured in videos from the scene that were widely viewed on social media and television, prompted intense protests that stretched for days in Baton Rouge. A day after Sterling was killed, a Minnesota man was fatally shot during a traffic stop, and the following day five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who said he was enraged by police killings.

At least 15 people have been outside the police headquarters at most times, Clements said. The largest protest occurred on on July 9, when people lined Airport Highway for a quarter of a mile, carrying signs, singing and chanting. During the protests in the city, more than 100 people were arrested, and demonstrators and activist groups have questioned the aggressive response from police.

In Baton Rouge, police said earlier this week that they responded in that way to protests because they had received a threat to law enforcement officials in the city. According to police, a teenager accused accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers. Police officials said that they felt this threat was credible enough that it shaped their response to protests.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have sued the Baton Rouge police and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office for their response to protests, accusing law enforcement officials of using excessive force during the demonstrations.

“What you saw in the response was because of the very real and viable threats against law enforcement,” East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III said last week. “All I can say beyond that is look what happened in Dallas — a very peaceful protest and then some crazy madman did what he did.”

The shooting Sunday illustrated the dangers facing police officers, said Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, pointing to the Dallas attacks that authorities there had attributed to a lone gunman acting as a sort of sniper.

“Communities and legislators say we don’t want our police to look like warriors, we want them to look like peacekeepers,” Lomax said. “But one element of war is being attacked by snipers. Now they are going to have to be properly equipped and trained to deal with this.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle (D) the timing of the shooting is devastating for Baton Rouge, which is still working recover from the most intense protests that unfolded on the city’s streets.

Marcelle, a former Baton Rouge city councilwoman, said that she was in church at Disciples Outreach Ministry in Baton Rouge this morning when the shooting broke out.

“My pastor came up to me and asked me to pray the prayer of peace and unity,” Marcelle said. “I got up and lead the prayer, and that was right around the same time that this incident happened.”

“I’m pretty shaken up that at the same time I was praying for peace someone was killing our officers,” she said. “It has to stop.”

Marcelle said in an interview just before that it is still too soon to know for sure whether the officers killed were deliberately targeted, and said that she has received contradictory information. Some initial reports said that officers were called to a targeted ambush, while others say that officers responded to an ongoing gunfight between residents and ended up in the line of fire.

“Right now I haven’t gotten either of those stories confirmed or denied.” She said.


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