A Missouri man fatally shot three police officers and injured three others on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. While the motives behind these murders are still not completely clear, the shooting has added to the rising tensions across the nation, The New York Times reports.
Although police have not officially released the names of the victims, family members and sources close to the investigation have confirmed to CNN that Officers Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola were killed.
The shooter, later identified as Gavin Long, openly carried an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle down Airline Highway early Sunday morning when police were called to the scene. According to CNN, Long began shooting without saying a word, ambushing the officers. “There was no talking, just shooting,” said Baton Rouge Cpl. L.J. McKneely in a press conference.
Officials believe Long, who was killed in a shootout with police, carried out the attack alone.
Long, an African-American former marine, was discharged from the US military in 2010. Under the pseudonym Cosmo Setepenra, he frequently posted to social media with anti-government and anti-police sentiments. Long also warned in a July 10 YouTube video that people needed to “fight back” against police violence.
Anxieties over police-civilian relations have put the US on edge, especially in the past few weeks. It’s easy to see why tensions between police officers and citizens have been exceptionally high in Louisiana following the death of Alton Sterling. Sterling was killed by police outside a gas station in Baton Rouge earlier this month. This and the death of Philando Castile within just days of each other served as tragic examples of African-American men dying at the hands of the police.
When protests over the two shootings broke out, four Dallas police officers were subsequently killed.
Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson responded to the Baton Rouge shootings by advocating for an end to these violent outbreaks. “The movement began as a call to end violence. That call remains,” Mckesson said.
President Barack Obama also spoke out after the Baton Rouge shooting. “We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement. Attacks on police are an attack on all of us, and the rule of law that makes society possible,” he said in a statement. “We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda.”
The president added that although tensions are clearly very high in light of recent events, unification is what is most important for the country to overcome these tough times. “Only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided,” President Obama continued. “And we’re going to have to keep on doing it again and again and again. That’s how this country gets united.”