Matthew Gerald, a former U.S. Marine who had joined the Baton Rouge police force only months ago, was identified as one of the deceased officers in the multiple shooting deaths of law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, according to Fox 8 New Orleans. He had served three tours in Iraq, said NOLA.com.
Fox 8 New Orleans said Gerald was married with two children. East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said of the three deceased and three wounded officers: “Each one of these individuals is married; each one of these individuals have a family…. As law enforcement, we are a family.”
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the six officers were shot, three fatally, after Gavin Eugene Long opened fire along a highway where protests were staged.
Long, from Kansas City, Missouri, was also a former Marine; he left behind prolific, rambling writings about police shootings, conspiracies, the military, and being an “alpha” male. He also had a card to a black separatist group, praised the Dallas police shooter, and advocated revolutionary bloodshed. Long murdered the officers on his birthday, CBS News reported.
Police said Long, who died at the scene, was wearing all black and a mask. Police now say they think Long was acting alone. The shootings came after protests following the shooting death of Alton Sterling, an African-American man shot by Baton Rouge police outside a local convenience store. That shooting was captured on citizen video.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gerald Had Only Been On Patrol By Himself For 12 Days & Friends of His Wife Had Expressed Concerns for His Safety
According to Fox 8 New Orleans, Gerald was a new officer to the force; he joined it a year ago, and he had only recently worked on his own.
On Facebook, friends of his wife had recently expressed concern for his safety. On July 8, one wrote on a family picture she posted: “Beautiful! Please be careful people need to realize that you or ya’ll put your lives on the line everyday to protect us and you have a family that waits for you to come home every night. Love ya’ll ! ? ? ?” Another friend simply wrote: “Be safe.”
Another friend wrote: “Much respect goes to matts squad with brpd. The whole squad came together to return his belongings to his wife. Hugs, tears and prayers were shared with family and squad members in the road. One officer was actually here in hospital attire as he was injured today as well. One of the most powerful and moving things i ever witnessed in my 56 years. If you dont support the police feel free to unfriend me on facebook and in person. Matthew Gerald you were a true hero. RIP.”
Gerald’s wife, a special education teacher, posted this photo on Facebook several hours after the shooting:
An hour before she posted the flag, she had shared a news account of the mass shooting, writing: “Everyone please pray!!! My husband along with others is out there.” Wrote another friend: “Lots and lots of prayers for you and the girls!!! He was the definition of a hero!”
2. Gerald Was Also a Former Black Hawk Crew Chief in The Army & Had Graduated From the Police Academy in March
WAFB Channel 9 said Gerald was from Denham Springs. In addition to being a former Marine, the news station described Gerald as “a former Marine, a former Black Hawk Crew Chief in the Army. He just graduated from the BRPD Academy in March.” Several of the police officers murdered in Dallas were also military veterans, as was the Dallas shooter and the gunman in Baton Rouge.
Col. Mike Edmonson said in a Sunday press conference that law enforcement doesn’t believe there is any active shooter scenario ongoing anymore. In addition to the three deceased officers, another sheriff’s deputy remains in critical condition and two additional officers suffered non-life threatening wounds, he said.
WBRZ says police took two suspects into custody in Addis and “transported them back to the BRPD Violent Crimes Unit.” The station cited sources, saying detained suspects had tried to change out of “all black clothing” at a Port Allen Walmart. However, they were released with no charges filed against them. Although authorities now say they think Long probably acted alone, they are still investigating whether he had any help, even indirectly, said WITN.
3. Friends Remembered Gerald’s Energy & His Cajun Accent & One of The Other Deceased Officers Had Posted a Powerful Statement on Facebook a Few Days Ago
Ryan C. Cabral, who served with Gerald in Iraq, told NOLA.com that Gerald was a memorable person. “Whether it was the energy he carried with him or that Cajun accent he had . . . maybe it was the Marine in him,” he said. Cabral said Gerald spend time with his family or bass fishing.
“We did our time in the military, and when that time was up, you just can’t turn off that want to serve the people,” Cabral said, according to NOLA.com.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said in a live Sunday afternoon press conference that Gerald was 41 and had under a year of service. The other slain Baton Rouge Police officer was identified as Montrell Jackson, 32-years-old with 10 years of service. “Public safety remains our priority, and we will continue to do our job,” said Dabadie.
Montrell Jackson, a new father, had posted a powerful statement to Facebook. It said:
The sheriff said the third deceased officer is a sheriff’s deputy who was 45-years-old. He was later identified as Brad Garafola. The Sheriff called for the nation to come together as a people so it doesn’t “perish as a people. I ask for all of your support for all of the families involved here today.”
4. Gerald Was Remembered as a Family Man & ‘Good Cop’ & The Officers Were Responding to a Report of a Man With a Gun on a Highway Where Protests Had Occurred
A family friend, Skye Turner, told WWL that Gerald and his wife, Dechia, had just celebrated their fourth marriage anniversary. They had a three-year-old daughter, and Gerald also adopted and was helping raise Dechia’s older daughter.
“He’s a good family man, good cop, loving husband,” said Turner to the station. “He was a son, father, all those things you want in a spouse.”
Since the death of Sterling, protests have erupted in Baton Rouge, along with other cities (and five police officers were slain by a gunman at a protest in Dallas). Airline Highway, where the Baton Rouge mass shooting occurred July 17, had been the earlier site of protests that temporarily shut down the highway. Here is the first report from the Sheriff’s Department:
A man carrying a rifle and walking on that same highway led to the police response, and witnesses said there might have been as many as 30 shots fired. NBC said, “The officers were responding to a call of shots fired when they were gunned down in an apparent ‘ambush’ around 9 a.m. local time.”
One eyewitness told NBC that he saw officers “falling down” and “hiding.” The gunman was wearing all black and standing behind a beauty supply store holding a rifle, Edmonson said in the news conference. Officers engaged the subject, Edmonson said, and he died at the scene.
5. Dispatch Audio Captured Officers’ Reports From the Scene & The President Has Released a Statement Condemning The Murders
Grim police audio reports shed some light on how the mass shooting unfolded. You can listen to dispatch audio here.
In the dispatch audio, an officer says that a woman had reported the gunman walking with an assault rifle near a B-Quik gas station on Airline Highway. The caller said the man was wearing a coat and walking behind the store, the scanner audio shows.
The audio then captures an officer shouting, “Shots fired, officer down! Shots fired, officer down!”
According to WBRZ, the deceased gunman began firing “indiscriminately.” President Obama released a statement condemning the attack (as did Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Louisiana’s governor and many others).
You can read Obama’s full statement here:
Just a few days before the mass killing, federal authorities foiled a plot to kill Baton Rouge police officers that they said was retaliation for Alton Sterling’s death. The plot involved the theft of firearms from a pawn shop and was busted through a robbery investigation, police said.
That earlier plot also involved a 12-year-old boy, said police. Alton Sterling was laid to rest on Friday.
Tributes were starting to come in for the deceased officers in the July 17 shooting even before they were named: