Another attack leaves three officers dead in Louisiana

by Reuters, |
An East Baton Rouge Sheriff vehicle is seen with bullet holes in its windows near the scene where police officers were shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 17, 2016. | REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) - A gunman killed three police officers and wounded three others in Louisiana's capital on Sunday, nearly two weeks after another gunman shoot five Dallas policemen to death following a Black Lives Matter protest there.

The suspect, described by a U.S. government official as having served in the Marine Corps, was himself shot to death minutes later in a gunfight with police who converged on the scene. The attacker was later identified as Gavin Eugene Long, a 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Missouri. 

Two Baton Rouge Police Department officers and one sheriff's deputy died at the scene, and one sheriff's deputy was left critically wounded in what Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said began as an "ambush-style" attack on officers.

Another police officer and one other deputy suffered less severe wounds and were expected to survive.

Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, said in a press conference that the gunman was believed to have acted alone, contrary to early reports that police may have been looking for other shooters.

The government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said investigators have reason to believe an emergency-911 call may have been used to lure police into harm's way. Another government source told Reuters that Long had been a member of the U.S. Marines, but his service record was not immediately known.

CBS News reported he was a Marine sergeant who was honorably discharged in 2010.

Authorities declined to offer any possible motive for the attack, but Long had an affinity for several black power and separatist groups and claimed in an Internet video to have once been a member of the Nation of Islam. 

President Barack Obama condemned the attack, vowed that justice would be done and called on Americans to focus on rhetoric and actions that united the country rather than divided it.

"We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence on law enforcement," Obama said in televised remarks from the White House.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards called the shootings an "unspeakable, heinous attack" that served no purpose.

"There simply is no place for more violence. That doesn't help anyone, it doesn't further the conversation, it doesn't address any injustice, perceived or real. It is just an injustice in and of itself," he told reporters in Baton Rouge.

Sunday's shootings occurred about a mile from the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters, where dozens of people were arrested this month while protesting the death of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old African-American father of five was shot and killed at close quarters by law enforcement officers. Sterling has a lengthy criminal record and was resisting arrest when shot by police officers. Officers said Sterling was armed, but an investigation is ongoing. 

A witness to Baton Rouge shootings, Brady Vancel, told a CBS television affiliate he had seen a gunman, a second man in a red shirt lying in a parking lot and another gunman running away "as shots were being fired back and forth from several guns."

He said the police arrived shortly after the gunfire began.

One of the injured officers was listed in critical condition at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, while another was in fair condition, hospital spokeswoman Kelly Zimmerman said. The third was taken to another hospital where he was in fair condition.

Shocked community members lined the highway about a mile from the shootings, at the site of the protests against Sterling's killing.

"It never hits home until it's in your own living room," said Redell Norman, an activist who attended the recent protests at police headquarters.

* By Sam Karlin, with reporting by Lisa Lambert, Ian Simpson, Tim Gardner and Julia Edwards, Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball in Washington; additional writing by Paul Simao; additional editing by Christian Examiner.