3 police officers shot dead, 3 hurt in Baton Rouge; dead suspect identified

Three police officers were killed and three others injured in a shooting Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, authorities said.

While police offered few immediate details about the exact origins of the incident, they say the violent incident unfolded early Sunday when officers responded to reports of a man carrying a rifle in an area filled with grocery stores and other businesses.

Col. Michael Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police, the agency taking the lead on the investigation, stressed Sunday afternoon that there was no active shooting situation and that police had killed the armed attacker, who died during a shootout with officers.

The attacker in Baton Rouge was identified Sunday afternoon as Gavin Long, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation. Authorities are exploring whether more than one person may have played a role in the incident, according to both officials, who asked not to be identified discussing an ongoing investigation. Sunday was long’s 29th birthday, according to one official.

Two of the officers fatally shot were with the Baton Rouge police force, while the third was part of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. Another deputy was in critical condition after the shooting, Edmonson said at a briefing.

“The violence, the hatred, just has to stop,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, D, said at the same news conference. “We have to do better. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and the people who carried out this act, the individuals, they do not represent the people of Baton Rouge, or the state of Louisiana.”

In the hours after the shooting, police had warned people to stay inside as they said they sought two other potential suspects. During an afternoon briefing, authorities said the lone attacker was dead, though they still asked people to remain away from the area where the shooting occurred.

Specific details about the shooting and the attacker remained unclear on Sunday, as officials did not say whether they believe the officers were specifically targeted or ambushed in some way. 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. Activists on Sunday, meanwhile, quickly decried the shooting in Baton Rouge.

Edmonson said Sunday that officers were contacted about a man “carrying a weapon, carrying a rifle” at about 8:40 a.m. Police at a convenience store in the area saw the man, who was wearing all black, Edmonson said.

Chaotic moments ensued. Edmonson said shots were reported fired at 8:42 a.m., and at 8:44 a.m., officers were reported down. At 8:45 a.m., more shots were fired. At 8:46, Edmonson said the suspect was reported near a car wash next to a convenience store. At 8:48 a.m., as emergency personnel began staging to treat the wounded, officers engaged the suspect and brought him down, Edmonson said.

“This has happened far too often,” President Barack Obama said in remarks at the White House on Sunday afternoon. “I’ve spent a lot of time with law enforcement this past week. I’m surrounded by the best every single day. And I know whenever this happens, wherever this happens, you feel it.”

In his remarks, the latest in a string of recent comments Obama has offered in the wake of shootings of and by police officers, the president issued a simple and impassioned plea for calm and understanding.

“We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric,” Obama said. “We need don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts. All of us.”

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III said one of his deputies was slain — a 45-year-old — and two were wounded — a 41-year-old and a 51-year-old. The 41-year-old, he said, was in critical condition. The two Baton Rouge police officers killed were a 41-year-old with just under a year of service and a 32-year-old with 10 years of service, while a 41-year-old officer was shot and wounded, said Carl Dabadie Jr., the Baton Rouge police chief.

“We’re grieving as a law enforcement community,” Gautreaux said. “With God’s help, we will get through this,” he continued. To me, this is not so much about gun control as it is about what’s in men’s hearts, and until we come together as a nation, as a people, to heal, as a people, if we don’t do that, and this madness continues, we will surely perish as a people.“

One Baton Rouge police officer killed Sunday was identified as Montrell Jackson, 32, who in recent years got married and became the father of a baby boy. The father of another officer slain, Matthew Gerald, confirmed that his son was killed in Baton Rouge. Gerald, 41, joined the police department after serving in both the Marines and the Army, a friend said.

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

”This is truly a sad day in Baton Rouge,“ Holden said.

In a statement, Baton Rouge said that its police force and other local, state and federal authorities were ”actively investigating the circumstances surrounding this morning’s shooting.“

Agents for the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene in Baton Rouge responding to the shooting, according to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. She said in a statement that ”there is no place in the United States for such appalling violence“ and strongly condemned the shooting.

A spokesman for the FBI in New Orleans said he was ”unsure“ whether the officers were targeted or what might have sparked the incident. He declined to comment further.

But the shooting deaths came during a particularly deadly year for law enforcement, and not long after a gunman who said he was enraged by police killings targeted police in Dallas.

”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 in Baton Rouge 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.

In May, Edwards signed a ”Blue Lives Matter“ bill into law, making Louisiana the first state in the country where police officers, firefighters and other first responders are a protected class under hate-crime law. Edwards, the son of a sheriff, said that this was needed because these people ”put their lives on the line every day, often under very dangerous circumstances“ and deserve this protection.

No other state includes police officers as a protected class under hate-crime laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But at least 37 states – including Louisiana – have enhanced penalties for assaulting police officers. In some states, hurting a police officer can be an ”aggravating factor“ to an assault or battery charge. Meanwhile, killing a police officer can also be an aggravating factor or circumstance in many states to make a crime eligible for the death penalty.

”I condemn, in the strongest sense of the word, the attack on law enforcement in Baton Rouge,“ President Obama said in a statement earlier Sunday. ”For the second time in two weeks, police officers who put their lives on the line for ours every day were doing their job when they were killed in a cowardly and reprehensible assault. These are attacks on public servants, on the rule of law, and on civilized society, and they have to stop.“

Obama said he had offered the federal government’s full support to officials in Louisiana, vowing that ”justice will be done.“

Obama noted that it was unclear yet what may have motivated the shooting, he emphatically called it ”the work of cowards who speak for no one.“ Obama has been criticized in the past for his statements about police, which some commentators and politicians have described as too critical of law enforcement.

Last week, at a town hall meeting on race and policing, Obama was confronted by one such critic — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R, who has called Obama’s rhetoric on the issue ”divisive. Obama rejected the suggestion that he had not been supportive enough of police and said he has been “unequivocal in condemning any rhetoric directed at police officers.”

Obama spoke with Edwards and Holden on Sunday and offered condolences to the families of the officers killed, according to the White House. He also asked to be updated throughout the day about the shooting.

The FBI New Orleans Division sent personnel to the scene to assist.

“At this time, our focus is to help identify and bring to justice those who are responsible for this heinous act,” a spokesman said.

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.

Reached by phone, Justin Alford, the owner of the B-Quick Convenience Store on Airline Highway, said he couldn’t comment about the incident at this time.

“Please pray for us,” he said. When asked if he would be able to speak more about the incident later, he said, “I’m not sure. It’s a sad situation.”

Local reports said that police had sent a robot in the store after the gunfire to check for explosives, but Alford said he could not confirm that.

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 the gunman in Dallas killed five officers and wounded nine others.

At least 15 people have been demonstrating outside the Baton Rouge 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,” Gautreaux, the sheriff, 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.”

Sterling’s aunt on Sunday decried the killing, pleading against any more violence in a television interview.

“Stop this killing. Stop this killing. Stop this killing,” Veda Washington-Abusaleh told KLAF-TV, breaking into tears as she into tears as she spoke. “That’s how this all started, with bloodshed. We don’t want no more bloodshed.”

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.

Earlier Sunday, a police officer in Milwaukee was shot multiple times while sitting in his squad car. The officer was on the city’s south side for an investigation into possible domestic violence, and Milwaukee police say the suspect in two incidents of domestic violence that brought officers to the area walked up to the car and began firing.

The Milwaukee officer was taken to a hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries, and the suspect was found dead after apparently taking his own life not far from the shooting.

In the hours after the shooting in Baton Rouge, dozens of people gathered outside the ambulance entrance at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Some who arrived Sunday were still wearing their suits and dresses, apparently having headed to the hospital after church services earlier in the day.

One of the only businesses open in the Hammond Aire plaza at the time of the shooting was Albertsons, a grocery store.

About 20 employees and customers were inside when someone came into the store asking what was going on outside. Soon after, police instructed them to not to leave. As of 2 p.m., they were still waiting inside the grocery store.

While employees resumed stocking and cleaning duties, the customers huddled on a bench near the store’s entrance, checking their phones for updates. As it became apparent they wouldn’t be allowed to go home any time soon, employees helped customers put their groceries into coolers to keep the food from spoiling.

State Rep. 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.“

Adam Goldman, Matt Zapotosky, Kimberly Kindy, Jessica Contrera, Theresa Vargas and Greg Jaffe in Washington and Bill Lodge and April Capochino Myers in Baton Rouge contributed to this report.

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Truck rams Bastille Day crowd in southern France; at least 70 reported killed

NICE, France – A truck rammed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice on Thursday night, killing at least 70 people in an apparent attack, French officials said.

The truck struck the crowd on the Promenade des Anglais, a seaside walk in the center of the city in southern France, authorities said. More than 50 people were reported injured. The driver also fired on the crowd before being shot to death by police, officials said.

Christian Estrosi, a former mayor of Nice and currently president of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, put the death toll at 73. He said in one of a series of Twitter messages that the truck was carrying arms and explosives when it struck the crowd at about 10:30 p.m. local time.

Estrosi told BFM TV that “the driver fired on the crowd, according to the police who killed him.”

He added that the driver’s behavior appeared to be “completely premeditated.”

There was no immediate information on the identity of the driver or what motivated his action.

Local authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and urging people to stay home, the French television channel BFM TV reported. It occurred as a large crowd was watching a fireworks display celebrating the French national holiday.

CNN quoted an American witness as saying he saw one person in the large white truck and heard gunfire, although it was not clear whether it came from the driver or was being fired at the vehicle.

The witness said the driver accelerated as he was mowing people down.

The Associated Press quoted Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice native, as saying that after slamming into the crowd, the truck driver emerged with a gun and started shooting.

“There was carnage on the road,” Bouhlel said. “Bodies everywhere.”

The Interior Ministry in Nice said about 100 people were injured and that the truck’s driver was shot by police.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bloodshed, although jihadist networks were celebrating it on social media.

France was rocked by a devastating terrorist attack in November, when heavily armed suicide bombers killed 130 people in several places around Paris. The Islamic Stateclaimed responsibility for that attack, the worst bloodshed on French soil since World War II.

In March, Islamic State attackers killed 32 people insuicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station.

News footage from the scene of the Nice incident showed the truck’s windshield riddled with bullet holes.

Analysts noted that the Islamic State has called on its followers to kill civilians in Western countries by any means possible.

The Islamic State has previously called for attacks using vehicles, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist statements. It said supporters of the radical Islamist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, were sharing the news of the Nice attack and “celebrating the massacre.”

Pro-Islamic State forums posted old messages in which the terrorist group urged followers to carry out lone-wolf attacks against France.

Police said people in the vicinity should stay home and follow instructions from authorities.

Witnesses said bodies of victims were strewn over the road for more than a mile. Police urged people not to spread rumors or broadcast shocking videos of the scene.

The Interior Ministry denied reports of a hostage-taking at a hotel and restaurant in Nice.

Despite the admonitions from French police, graphic video and photographs flooded social media. In some, bodies could be seen lying on the boulevard where the truck plowed into the crowd. Revelers ran away from the scene while sirens blared.

A reporter for Agence France-Presse called it “absolute chaos.”

“We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around,” he said.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said President Obama was informed about the situation in Nice and that his national security team would update him as appropriate.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump quickly took to Twitter, writing: “Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France. Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It is only getting worse.”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump said he was postponing a news conference scheduled for Friday “concerning my Vice Presidential announcement.”

French President François Hollande returned to Paris to deal with the crisis after a private visit to Avignon, France.

Within half an hour of initial reports of the incident, Facebook had activated its “safety check” feature for people in Nice. On Twitter, others used the hashtag #PortesOuvertesNice (“OpenDoorsNice”) to find and offer refuge to those who needed a place to stay.

In a tweet, the city of Nice urged people to seek shelter that way, and the hashtag was soon trending globally.

Meanwhile, taxis in the city were providing free rides to people seeking to leave the scene.

Maryam Violet, an Iranian journalist visiting Nice on vacation, told the Guardian that she saw the truck running into people as they left the fireworks show.

“I saw that suddenly people were fleeing and shouting,” she said, speaking by phone from Nice. “People were shouting, ‘It’s a terrorist attack! It’s a terrorist attack!’ It was clear that the driver was doing it deliberately.”

“I was walking for nearly a mile, and there were dead bodies all over the place,” she continued. “I think over 30 dead bodies are on the ground and lots of people are injured.”

Violet said she saw bodies covered in blue sheets and families mourning loved ones — two sisters and a brother from Poland who had lost two siblings; a family whose mother had died. She guessed that the family was Muslim, because some members were wearing headscarves.

“In Arabic, they were saying she’s a martyr,” Violet said.

“People were celebrating” before the incident, she said. “And it was so peaceful. It was a festivity vibe. It was right after the fireworks that the truck came and ran over people.”

Zeynep Akar told CNN that the truck drove into crowds right outside her home.

“I suddenly heard the crash and people shouting,” she said. “When I went to the balcony, there were so many people on the ground.”

When she heard the crack of gunfire, she hurried back inside her house and turned off the lights. “I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.

As everyone who could sought shelter, only emergency responders and relatives of those killed remained at the scene.

Photos showed horror-struck mourners crouched over blanket-covered bodies. A Reuters photographer captured a small figure covered in a foil sheet; a child’s doll lay next to the body.

Jimmy Ghazal, 39, a Lebanese man visiting Nice with his family, told ABC News that he had been watching the fireworks with thousands of other people when he heard the crack of gunshots.

“A big truck” plowed through security barriers that had been set up for the day’s festivities, he said, and “everyone started running.”

As they fled, Ghazal tried to comfort his children.

“The kids thought it was part of the fireworks,” he said. “We just told them it was part of the fireworks.”

Souad Mekhennet in Frankfurt, Germany, and Sarah Kaplan in Washington contributed to this report.

Part 3: Here’s how Disneyland looked and changed in the 1960s

In honor of the park’s anniversary, this is the third of a seven-part series looking at how Disneyland has changed decade by decade. Part 1: 1955, the year Disneyland opened. Part 2: 1956-1959.

It was the ’60s, a decade of change. And just like society, Disneyland would change too – in dramatic fashion.

1960

Just like previous years, Walt Disney was constantly tinkering with Disneyland as the decade started. The first year of the decade, he added more scenes to the Rainbow Ridge Mine Train, and changed its name to the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. The mules got a new name, too, the fairly obvious Pack Mules Through Nature’s Wonderland – both were in Frontierland.

That same year, the Horse-Drawn Fire Wagon was parked beneath his apartment in the Disneyland Fire Department building in Town Square on Main Street U.S.A. It sits there for all to see to this day.

Electric cars appeared on Main Street U.S.A., too. Walt frequently used them to take other notables on tours around his Magic Kingdom.

In Tomorrowland, Disney closed several of the day one exhibits, like the World Beneath Us, the Aluminum Hall of Fame, the Bathroom of Tomorrow and Space Station X-1. But he added the Art of Animation that year to make up for it.

1961

In 1961, Disney received a gift of statues of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He left it up to Disney Imagineer John Hench to stage them where they are to this day, in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle as part of the Snow White Grotto and Wishing Well.

Skull Rock bared its head by the Pirate Ship in Fantasyland that year.

Tomorrowland got more futuristic in 1961 when the Flying Saucers landed. The much-loved attraction was also a troublemaker in the form of maintenance and constant breakdowns, and they flew away in 1966.

That same year, the monorail really became a form of transportation when its track was extended and a second station was built at the Disneyland Hotel.

But 1961, also saw the closure of Holidayland, the first new and unsuccessful land at Disneyland – but Disney had plans for that land, big plans.

1962-63

In 1962, a new comical scene was added to the Jungle Cruise: The sacred bathing pool of the Indian elephants. In 1964, a safari got lost in the jungle, too. That’s about the time that the humorous spiel really took root that the skippers used as their narration, all approved by Disney.

And Disney decided that he knew how to build a treehouse. But first he needed a tree – made out of concrete and rebar, not wood – to house the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. The attraction was based on the treehouse seen in the Disney movie, “Swiss Family Robinson,” and has its own “Latin” name: Disneyodendron semperflorens grandis.

But all of that was the warm-up act for the rest of the 1960s, as more innovative shows and attractions were on the way.

The first to fly in was Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – where the birds sing words and the flowers croon to this day, thanks to Disney’s Audio-Animatronics technology. Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, was afraid the show was too much of a risk for the corporation – so Walt built it with his own money. It was a big success, and a few years later, the corporation bought the attraction.

1964-66

Disney was also developing several shows for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. But he had plans for those shows, and they all made it to Disneyland.

One of them was “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” where the president began giving his speech inside the Main Street Opera House in 1965.

The following year, the dolls began singing in “it’s a small world” in 1966, after a successful run in New York. The song has been estimated to have been played millions of times, making it the most played song in the world.

Meanwhile, on the western side of Disneyland, a new land was cropping up where Holidayland once stood. This one was based on the “Crescent City” — New Orleans.

New Orleans Square was the landing for one of the largest milestones in theme park ride history, the Pirates of the Caribbean. This was the last attraction at Disneyland personally overseen by Walt Disney. Though he would not live to see it officially open to the public, he did ride it.

In fact, in a little-known piece of trivia, Disney rode it on July 24, 1966, the day New Orleans Square officially opened to the public. But, after getting off the attraction that day, he immediately ordered it closed because he felt it wasn’t ready. According to then-cast member Ben Harris, he left copious notes of things that needed to be done to it before the attraction could open — notes that were followed to the letter by his Imagineers.

Besides the new attraction, the area also had three restaurants and a myriad of specialty shops.

1967-68

Over in Tomorrowland, it was time for an update. In 1967, a new movie format — Circlevision 360 — debuted, where a new version of “America the Beautiful” played out on its nine movie screens, which surrounded the audience with scenic vistas. Across the mall, riders could shrink down to the size of an atom on the Monsanto-sponsored “Adventure Thru Inner Space.”

Riding down the center of Tomorrowland was a new transportation system, the WEDway Peoplemover. Above that soared the Rocket Jets, replacing the Astro-Jets, along with an outdoor stage for celebrity concerts.

From the 1964 New York World’s Fair, a great big beautiful tomorrow unfolded in the General Electric-sponsored Carousel of Progress.

Also from the fair, the Primeval World diorama was added to the Disneyland Railroad in 1966.

1969

Finally, to cap off the 1960s, the Haunted Mansion opened in 1969 with 999 ghosts — and they’re still looking for number 1,000 to take up residence.

While Walt Disney passed away December 15, 1966, the company that bore his name and the Imagineers he trained kept his legacy going. One of his quotes guides Walt Disney Imagineering to this day: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

For more details about Disneyland in the 1960s – including additions and changes to attractions and shows – click through the slideshow.

Reporter Mark Eades worked as an Imagineer for Walt Disney Imagineering, the company that designs Disney’s theme parks, from 1982 to 1993.

Contact the writer: meades@ocregister.com