Authorities Work To Confirm Gunman's Motive In Baton Rouge Police Killings

Jul 18, 2016
Originally published on July 19, 2016 12:36 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The three law enforcement officers killed yesterday morning in Baton Rouge, La., died at the hands of a man who was, quote, "targeting officers." State police officials say that much is clear from the investigation so far. They laid that out in an afternoon news conference. The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, also spoke.

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JOHN BEL EDWARDS: He came in here from somewhere else to do harm to our community and specifically to the law enforcement officers in our community.

MCEVERS: The gunman, Gavin Long, was shot by police and died on the scene. With us to explain what we now know about the events that took place yesterday is NPR's Carrie Johnson. Hi there.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: And you were listening to that briefing by law enforcement in Louisiana. What new information did we learn about this shooter?

JOHNSON: They confirmed that Gavin Long died yesterday on his 29th birthday. He was a decorated former Marine. But authorities say he held very strong anti-government views. He allied himself with the Sovereign Citizen movement which doesn't recognize most government officials or authorities like courts or police as legitimate.

And authorities also said they've been trying to figure out more about him by tracing some of the ideas and postings he put on social media. For instance, he tried to change his name last year, but that was never finalized. And authorities believe, perhaps most importantly for now in the investigation, that he appears to have acted alone.

MCEVERS: Officials in Baton Rouge have suggested the officers who died there were actually ambushed by this shooter. How clear is it that that's what happened?

JOHNSON: The commander of the Louisiana State Police talks about this scene as an example of sheer brutality. He says there's no doubt that police were targeted in a calculated attack. He says this shooter was on the hunt for police and was posting chilling - the police officers today in the news conference described some chilling video images of the shooter moving along, trying to rout out some of the authorities who were there to protect public safety.

They also said today, Kelly, that they've been tracing the shooter's physical movements between his home in Kansas City, Kan., and Baton Rouge where he'd apparently been for at least several days before the shooting. This is an ongoing investigation with a lot of moving parts.

MCEVERS: Attorney General Loretta Lynch talked about the tragedy in Baton Rouge to a group of black law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C., today. What did she have to say?

JOHNSON: Well, she put this in the context - this tragedy in Baton Rouge - in the context of really what's been a terrible month - the death of two black men first in Baton Rouge and also in Minnesota, the death of five police officers in Dallas and then this episode yesterday. The attorney general, Loretta Lynch, said some of these very sad events are pulling us back to some of the sad times we saw in the '60s.

But she also quoted officer Montrell Jackson in Baton Rouge who died yesterday. He said before his death and in the context of these episodes, please don't let hate infect your heart. Here's a little bit more of what Loretta Lynch had to say.

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LORETTA LYNCH: The goal that everyone has in this wonderful profession of ours, this wonderful profession of law enforcement is not just public safety, not just nation security, but the most important basic goal of everyone who takes an oath is to defend the rights of everyone who calls this great country home.

JOHNSON: And Kelly, with - Loretta Lynch said with police themselves feeling like targets after Dallas and Baton Rouge, she and other officials in federal law enforcement are going to go out of their way to defend local police and law enforcement all over the country.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thank you very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.