Investigation Continues Into Baton Rouge Police Slayings
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
In Baton Rouge today, officials called an attack that left three officers dead a calculated ambush.
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JOHN BEL EDWARDS: This was a diabolical attack on the very fabric of society.
MCEVERS: That's Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards at a news conference today. Police painted a step-by-step picture of what they said was a methodical assault on officers. NPR's Frank Morris has more on the new details in the investigation and how the community is doing.
FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Police say Gavin Long, a 29-year-old African-American, was well-armed, carrying two assault-style weapons and a semi-automatic handgun. And he was cunning. Colonel Michael Edmonson, the superintendent at the Louisiana State Police, says Long stalked officers through a maze of businesses, firing on them ruthlessly.
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COLONEL MICHAEL EDMONSON: There is no doubt whatsoever that these officers were intentionally targeted and assassinated.
MORRIS: At one point in the attack, police say Sheriff Deputy Brad Garafola saw what was happening and left a sheltered position to help an injured officer. Long killed him and then the other officer who was already down. In the end, it was a hundred-yard shot from a SWAT team that killed Long. Police officials say they take solace in what they say was a heroic and skillful response to the attack. And out in the city, residents remain on edge.
At the sight of the shooting at a gas station, car wash and beauty supply store on a big commercial strip, bouquets and shiny balloons are heaped on a banner advertising fast food pizza. It's a shrine to the fallen officers, and a police chaplain's here for comfort.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We pray for their families, their security and all our law enforcement here in Baton Rouge and throughout the country in your precious name, Jesus Christ.
STACY DEJEAN: Jesus.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Amen.
MORRIS: Stacy DeJean (ph) is here, clenching flowers in remembrance of her friend Matthew Gerald, a 41-year-old officer with two young daughters murdered yesterday. She's trembling, but she says that the tragedy will ultimately make Baton Rouge stronger.
DEJEAN: I think the most important thing is that we stick together. We don't let outside things influence us and get us stressed out. We continue to pray and stick together as a community.
MORRIS: But Gregory Hill (ph), an off-duty African-American officer working security here today sees it differently. Hill says the shootings are tearing this community.
GREGORY HILL: It's dividing families. It's dividing people on the job. It's taking a toll. It's like an ulcer. It's been put in place, and now it's starting to eat away.
MORRIS: Hill's sympathies are with his fellow officers who he says suffer from the actions of a very few malevolent cops. And then there are people like Kien Adeson (ph), a slender, 31-year-old small business owner facing the sweltering heat today in a crisp blue shirt and tie. Adeson, who just stopped by soda, says he's faced far more than his share of abuse from the police - even a false arrest. But he's among those calling for calm, calm and understanding.
KIEN ADESON: As a black American right now, we're just bracing ourselves, and we - you know, we protecting ourselves. We sit on the fence right now because of what's going on. It ain't that we mad at the police; we want to kill them; we want to hurt them. No, it's not like that. We just want to protect us to make sure it don't keep happening. That's all. We just don't want it to keep happening.
MORRIS: A lot of people seem to be hunkering down here today and sense that the forces shaking this community may be paused but are not likely finished with Baton Rouge. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Baton Rouge.
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