Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers investigating a report of a man with an assault rifle were killed Sunday, less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police here in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests that reverberated nationwide.
Three other officers were wounded, one critically. Police said the suspect was killed at the scene. The dead gunman was believed to be the only person who fired at officers, but authorities were unsure whether he had some kind of help, a state police spokesman said.
Authorities identified the shooter as Gavin Long, a 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Mo., who served in the U.S. Marines, including a six-month tour of duty in Iraq. University of Alabama officials said he attended school there for one semester in 2012.
The shooting — which took place just before 9 a.m., less than a mile from police headquarters — came amid escalating tensions across the country between the black community and police.
It was the fourth high-profile deadly encounter in the United States involving police over the past two weeks. The violence has left eight police officers and four civilians dead, and sparked a national debate over race and policing.
President Barack Obama urged Americans to tamp down inflammatory words and actions.
“We as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies attacks on law enforcement,” Obama said in remarks from the White House. “Every one right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.”
Authorities initially believed that other assailants might be at large, but hours later said that no other active shooters were on the loose.
The shooting began at a gas station on Airline Highway. According to radio traffic, Baton Rouge police answered a report of a man with an assault rifle and were met by gunfire. For several long minutes, they did not know where it was coming from.
According to an audio of the radio exchanges, nearly 2 minutes after the first report of an officer getting shot, an officer on the scene is heard saying police do not know the shooter’s location.
Almost six minutes pass after the first shots are reported before police say they have determined the shooter’s location. About 30 seconds later, someone says shots are still being fired.
The recording lasts about 17 minutes and includes urgent calls for an armored personnel carrier called a BearCat.
In Kansas City, police converged on a house that was listed for a Gavin Long. Some officers had weapons drawn from behind trees. Others took cover behind cars.
Gov. John Bel Edwards rushed to the hospital where the officers were taken. They were from the Baton Rouge Police Department and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.
“There simply is no place for more violence,” Edwards said. “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.”
Of the two officers who survived the shooting, one was hospitalized in critical condition, and the other was in fair condition. Another officer was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.
Each of the officers was married and had a family, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.
The Baton Rouge attack unfolded hours after a domestic violence suspect opened fire early Sunday on a Milwaukee police officer who was sitting in his squad car. The officer was seriously wounded, and the suspect fled and apparently killed himself, authorities said.
Police-community relations in Baton Rouge have been especially tense since the death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man killed by white officers on July 5 after a scuffle at a convenience store. The killing was captured on widely circulated cellphone video.
It was followed a day later by the shooting death of another black man in Minnesota, whose friend livestreamed the aftermath of his death on social media. The next day, a black gunman in Dallas opened fire on police at a protest about the police shootings, killing five officers and heightening tensions even further.
Thousands of people have protested Sterling’s death, and Baton Rouge police arrested more than 200 demonstrators.
Sterling’s nephew condemned the killing of the three Baton Rouge officers. Terrance Carter spoke Sunday to The Associated Press by telephone, saying the family just wants peace.
“My uncle wouldn’t want this,” Carter said. “He wasn’t this type of man.”
A few yards from a police roadblock on Airline Highway, Keimani Gardner was in the parking lot of a warehouse store in which he works, one that would ordinarily be bustling on a Sunday afternoon. But the store was closed because of the shooting.
“It’s crazy. … I understand some people feel like enough is enough with, you know, the black community being shot,” said Gardner, an African-American. “But honestly, you can’t solve violence with violence.”
Updated Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 9:58 pm .