Baton Rouge: LAPD Chief Beck says national discussion 'must be free of violence'

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Three law enforcement officers were killed and three others wounded Sunday morning in a shooting at a gas station in Baton Rouge, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police in the city. Authorities identified the shooter as Gavin Long, a 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Mo., who served in the U.S. Marines. This also follows the recent shooting that killed five officers in Dallas.

LAPD boosting support for officers after attack

Los Angeles Police Chief Beck and the LAPD responded to the attack in Baton Rouge in a statement.

"Here in Los Angeles we are closely monitoring the developing events in Baton Rouge and the ongoing investigative efforts," the statement said.

In response, according to the release, the LAPD has been directed to:

(1) Assign Metropolitan Officers to assist patrol resources and provide additional protection to officers responding to calls for service;

(2) Increase the number of helicopters patrolling the City to provide additional support for responding officers;

(3) Conduct additional screening of calls at the LAPD's 9-1-1 call center to ensure that officers are safely responding to calls for service with sufficient information and resources; and

(4) Implement additional operational enhancements and special procedures.

“We don’t have any information that leads us to believe there’s anything afoot here in Los Angeles,” LAPD spokesman Capt. Andrew Neiman told KPCC's Take Two.

Neiman said that Chief Beck decided to double the amount of air support on patrol. He said the LAPD also recently doubled the size of its Metropolitan Division. 

“Behind the scenes, we’re doing a little deeper dive in terms of how we vet the calls to determine whether there’s something suspicious about the nature of the call,” Neiman said.

Neiman said that over the years, LAPD leadership has learned that it's more effective to engage with the community rather than police the city with a heavy hand. 

“We try to take the temperature of our community to see if dialogue is really developing,” Neiman said. “We learned our lessons the hard way.

Neiman also said that the LAPD is ahead of other departments.

“We are eons ahead of some of our fellow agencies,” Neiman said.

LAPD Chief Beck also called for more discussion about policing  in a statement Monday morning, but called the attacks "cowardly."

"The duties of a police officer are not always easy and in many instances face the most extreme criticism due to the very nature of their obligations," Beck said. "The events that have triggered this national discussion about policing in America are necessary, but must be free of violence if meaningful change is to be achieved. These cowardly attacks on law enforcement officers will not resolve the issues and concerns that some have within society. Communication is the key and the reprehensible violence and unspeakable crimes that we have seen in Dallas and Baton Rouge will only serve to divide rather than unite us all."

Community organizer: 'We still don’t want to see death, no matter who’s dying'

Baton Rouge community organizer Eugene Collins told KPCC's "Take Two" that after burying Alton Sterling on Friday, the city was finally seeing some semblance of peace. He said he met with other local organizers on Saturday night about the next steps toward peace — then he woke up on Sunday. 

“I woke up to start getting myself prepared for church, and at that point I saw that I had 100 text messages,” Collins said. 

The text messages were in response to the shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge.

“You felt the pain that we’re here again, because nobody wants to see death," Collins said. "We still don’t want to see death, no matter who’s dying."

Racial tensions have been high in Baton Rouge for decades, Collins said — and now they're at an all-time high.

“To say that race has not been a part of the conversation, I’d be lying,” Collins said. “This didn’t help.” 

Collins said that there are good people trying to make change on both sides, but that it's a rough situation and tiring for everyone involved.

“This just isn’t a Baton Rouge issue, this is most definitely an issue within our nation that we need to address,” Collins said, calling for police reform. 

He said that in Baton Rouge there are issues with officer training and pay, with officers making $14 per hour.

'Let's put an end to all this madness,' says brother of slain police officer

Montrell Jackson, one of three Baton Rouge police officers killed Sunday, had written about tensions he felt after the police killing of Alton Sterling, using a Facebook post to tell his community, "Please don't let hate infect your heart."

That Facebook post has been shared widely in the 24 hours since Jackson and two other officers were killed outside a convenience store, with his words about integrity and love — including love for his city — forming a very public legacy.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch quoted Jackson in a speech Monday, highlighting his observation as a black police officer that "In uniform I get nasty, hateful looks — and out of uniform, some consider me a threat."

As Lynch noted, that wasn't all of Jackson's message: He also said, "These are trying times. Please don't let hate infect your heart."

Jackson's brother, Kedrick Pitts, spoke about his brother to NPR on Sunday, saying, "He loved his job, he worked his job seven days a week."

Jackson, 32, joined the police force in 2006; he came from a family that includes several members of police and sheriff's department forces, Pitts told All Things Considered.

Also killed in the attack were BRPD Officer Matthew Gerald, 41, and Brad Garafola, 45, a deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office. Like Jackson, both men were married and had children: Gerald had two, according to NOLA.com, while Garafola had four, reports local newspaper The Advocate.

Jackson is survived by his wife and a 4-month-old baby.

"He just had his first-born son. He always wanted to be a father," Pitts said. "I became a father before him, and when I had mine, he treated mine like his. And everyone wanted to see him be a father because that's the most important thing to him."

Asked what he would like the world to know about his brother, Pitts answered, "He would want the world to be a better place. Let's put an end to all this madness, and everybody come together."

That message was a big part of the post Jackson put on Facebook, along with a photo of himself and his son. Here's more of that text, in case you haven't seen it:

"I'm tired physically and emotionally. Disappointed in some family friends and officers for some reckless comments, but, hey, what's in your heart is in your heart. I still love you all because hate takes too much energy. But I definitely won't be looking at you the same. Thank you to everyone that's reached out to me or my wife. It was needed and much appreciated. I swear to God I love this city, but I wonder if the city loves me in uniform. I get nasty, hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat. I've experienced so much in my short life in these last three days have tested me to the core."

Those words were published on July 8, days after the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge set off protests there. Pitts spoke about his brother's reaction to those events:

"He felt hurt, and he wants justice for their family also. But he just asked everyone to respect everyone, continue to love everyone. And he wanted everyone to get through this together. He didn't want any hatred going on — especially killing. He was a police officer, he wanted peace."

As for how Pitts feels, he says his brother was "everything" to him. Here's more of what he told NPR's Michel Martin Sunday:

"I just want to say God bless these killers. I continue to pray for those guys, too. And I don't know what were their motives, but I just hope this is a real eye-opener to the community, to the whole world. It sucks that it had to be my brother, my best friend. But God had his plan, and I trust and I believe in him. And that's it."

The day after the shooting, the most senior police officer in the high-profile death of Freddie Gray was found not guilty of manslaughter. Gray died while in Baltimore police custody.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This story has been updated.

With contributions from Bill Chappell

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