Gunman shoots dead police officers in Baton Rouge

Three US police officers have been killed and another three injured in a shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. US President Obama has pledged justice.

A police officer armed with a rifle guards the entrance to a local hospital.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana is on high alert after a gunman shot and killed three law enforcement officers and injured three more on Sunday morning.

Police said the suspect was shot and killed at the scene. They originally believed that two other assailants might be at large but later said the dead gunman was the only person who fired at the officers. Various US media have identified the gunman as Gavin Long, a 29-year-old African American from Kansas City, Missouri.

Police vehicles block access to part of Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, LouisianaPolice vehicles block access to part of Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The incident began when both local police and the sheriff’s department responded to the shooting less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the police headquarters, at a convenience store.

Among the injured, one officer was in critical condition and another in fair condition at a local hospital. Authorities are calling the shootings an ambush, although one witness rejected that assertion saying the gunman were initially shooting at each other.

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In a televised address, President Barack Obama voiced his sorrow at the shooting. He vowed that “justice would be done,” saying the incident underscored the dangers police officers face in the line of duty.

Obama said the attack was “an assault on all of us.”

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said the shooting was unjustifiable and called it “an assault on all of us.” Her Republican Party rival Donald Trump meanwhile tweeted that the US was divided and “out of control.”

A string of shooting

The southern city of Baton Rouge was the scene of a deadly police shooting earlier this month of a black man, Alton Sterling, a father of five, who had appeared to be restrained by police during the incident. That shooting, and another in Minnesota, sparked national outrage.

During a peaceful rally in Dallas, Texas, following the two shootings, a black gunman opened fire, killing five police officers there.

bik/jlw (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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Obama to Dallas Mourners: ‘We’re Not as Divided as We Seem’

Jon Schuppe

Tuesday, 12 Jul 2016 | 3:52 PM ET

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President Obama, attending another service for victims of mass shootings and trying to mend a country riven by distrust between citizens and police, paid tribute to five Dallas police officers ambushed at a protest last week, saying their deaths should remind Americans of the country’s greatest ideals.

The same spirit, Obama said, was evident in the attack’s aftermath, when a white mayor and black police chief worked together to heal their city.

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He spoke of the thankless work done by police officers around the country, and of the legitimate grievances that many black people feel from years of discrimination, including at the hands of law enforcement. But he also gave the country a pep talk, urging citizens not to lose hope in the past week’s squall of violence that began with black men killed by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and culminated with the officers’ killings on Thursday.

“We see all this and its hard not to think the center won’t hold and things won’t get worse,” he said. “I understand. But Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist we’re not as divided as we seem. I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come despite impossible odds.

Police officers arrive at an interfaith memorial service, honoring five slain police officers, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on July 12, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

Tom Pennington | Getty Images
Police officers arrive at an interfaith memorial service, honoring five slain police officers, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on July 12, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

The president told brief personal stories about each of the five officers with the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit police force, calling them heroes: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. Calling them heroes, he described their relationships with their wives and children and extended families, their dedication to public service, and the routine ways they spent their final days. He told how they died at the hands of a vengeful gunman, Micah Johnson, on assignment protecting people marching against police.

“Like police officers across the country, these men and their families shared a commitment to something more than themselves,” Obama said. He added: “They were upholding the Constitutional rights of this country.”

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, called for Americans to remember their common values rather than the things that pulled them apart. “This is the bridge across the nation’s deepest divisions,” Bush said. “We don’t want the unity of grief, nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection and high purpose.”

That purpose, he said, was exemplified by the officers who ran toward Thursday’s gunfire, and those who died.

Reserved seats contain American flags and police hats during an interfaith memorial service, honoring five slain police officers, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on July 12, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

Tom Pennington | Getty Images
Reserved seats contain American flags and police hats during an interfaith memorial service, honoring five slain police officers, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on July 12, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

He was followed by Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who received a standing ovation and whom Mayor Michael Rawlings called “my rock” and a representative of police across the country.

Brown took a un orthodoz but touching tack, reading the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s “As,” that he dedicated to the families of the five slain officers:

“We all know sometimes life’s hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet you life times that and twice its double
That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed.”

Obama’s visit marked the 11th time during his presidency that he’d visited scenes of mass shootings to offer condolences, most recently last month in Orlando.

The crowd at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center as packed with officers, many of them joining Obama and former President George W. Bush on stage. Every officer in the house wore yellow ribbons. In the front row sat family members of all five dead officers. Nearby were five empty chairs, adorned with the officer’s service hats and American flags folded into triangles.

Also in attendance were Vice President Joseph Biden and mayors and governors from around the country.

Rawlings said the pain was particularly sharp because the dead officers were targeted as they protected a peaceful rally against police shootings, and because Dallas had earned a reputation for mending decades old wounds between police and the local black community.

“I have searched hard in my soul of late for what mistakes we have made. I’ve asked, ‘why us,’ and in my moments of self doubt I found the truth: that we did nothing wrong,’ Rawlings said. “In fact, Dallas is very, very good. Our police are among the best in the country. I’m in awe of our police officers.”

Dallas shooting: Obama urges US to ‘reject despair’

Media captionObama reflects on role as ‘consoler-in-chief’ during Dallas speech

President Barack Obama has urged the US to “reject despair” as he paid tribute to five police officers killed by a gunman in Dallas.

He told a memorial service in the city the US must “try to find some meaning amidst our sorrow” and could unite.

His trip came amid mounting racial tensions across the country.

Micah Johnson killed the Dallas officers at a protest held over the recent police shootings of African-Americans in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Before he was killed by police, he said he was angry about the shootings.

Meanwhile, protests over excessive police force against black Americans have been held in cities across the US.

But speaking at Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on Tuesday, Mr Obama urged the country not to despair.

Americans were struggling with what had happened in the past week, he said, and events appeared to have revealed “the deepest fault line of our democracy”.

“I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.”

He honoured the bravery of police officers and said fewer people were being mourned at the service because of the courage of the officers killed.

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The service featured five portraits of the officers and five empty chairs.

Ex-President George W Bush, a former Texas governor, praised the police: “Their courage is our protection and shield.”

And Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who spoke first, said: “The soul of our city was pierced.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will also hold a private meeting with the families of the victims on Wednesday.

Pictures of the five fallen officersImage copyrightAP
Image captionPictures of the five fallen officers were central to the service
Barack Obama hugs Police Chief David BrownImage copyrightEUROPEAN PHOTOPRESS AGENCY
Image captionPolice Chief David Brown received a standing ovation when he was introduced
George W BushImage copyrightAFP
Image captionGeorge W Bush praised the courage of the police
Supporters participate in the Dallas Strong Candlelight Vigil in TexasImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe city held a candlelight vigil to remember the slain officers

The US has been on edge in the wake of the recent string of violence, roiled by protests over police reform and race relations.

And Mr Obama has been criticised for not doing enough to support the police, many of whom say they feel under attack because of the protests and criticism.


Reaction to President Obama’s speech

  • Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times called the speech “excellent” and that Mr Obama is “so eloquent on race”
  • Conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch said it was good until it became “a partisan political lecture on gun control, race, and policing”
  • Domenico Montanaro of NPR News called it the biggest race speech of Mr Obama’s presidency
  • Conservative political operative Tim Miller said Mr Obama and George Bush’s speeches had “hope, dignity and constructiveness”

Mr Obama and Mr Biden on Monday met law enforcement officials to discuss police reform and how to repair relations between police officers and the communities they protect.

The president, who cut short a trip to Europe over the recent violence, is expected to host a similar meeting on Wednesday in Dallas with law enforcement as well as local leaders and activists.

Media captionPresident Obama: “I believe our sorrow can make us a better country”
Media captionMillennials worry about what’s in store for the next generation of black Americans

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Baton Rouge protesters resume demonstrations against police violence

Despite overnight clashes that resulted in 30 arrests, demonstrators refused to back down in Louisiana. Hundreds gathered outside the shop where 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot by white officers earlier this week.

USA Polizei und Demonstranten in Baton Rouge

Hundreds of protesters continued their series of demonstrations on Saturday outside the store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where African-American Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police. The protests outside the Triple S convenience store continued despite a tense standoff the night before that saw 30 people arrested.

Other protesters in Baton Rouge headed to the city’s police department to continue the demonstration. Many carried signs or wore T-shirts with messages like the well-known “Black Lives Matter” or “I can’t keep calm, I have a black son.”

“I’ve been active in the community for years. We have been suffering police brutality for a long time. A lot of racism has been going on here for a long time,” said local activist Lael Montgomery. “I have kids. They need to be raised in a better environment than they’re in.”

Communities demand end to police brutality

Alton Sterling’s death at the hands of two white police officers gained widespread attention after it was captured on a cellphone video. One officer can be heard shouting, “He’s going for the gun!” Sterling was allegedly carrying a firearm in his pocket, though in the video he is already pinned to the ground.

One of the officers involved in his death had previously been on forced leave from duty after a previous shooting of an African-American male.

Sterling’s death came just one day before that of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot during a traffic stop in Minnesota as he was reaching for his driver’s license.

The two men’s deaths reignited the long-simmering debate about police brutality in America, which came to yet another violent head on Thursday when a peaceful protest in Dallas was disrupted by a sniper who shot dead five police officers and wounded several others.

The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, was killed in a standoff, but reportedly told authorities before that he was motivated by revenge for police violence against African Americans.

The Baton Rouge protests were joined by solidarity marches across the US and even as far away as London. Organizers have said they plan to continue their demonstrations into Sunday, including a march from City Hall to the state Capitol.

es/bk (AP, Reuters)

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Dallas is the latest battlefield in the United States

As activists continue to protest police violence in the US and Dallas mourns the loss of five officers, many Americans have questioned how the country might move forward after the latest killings. Ines Pohl reports.

USA Black Lives Matter Trauer in Dallas

Marcus Carter and his friends sat directly behind the yellow barrier tape; behind them pylons were lined up in the green grass. Whenever a light-rail train passed, he raised his fist in the black power salute. Carter was wearing a T-shirt with “Black Lives Matter Dallas” written on it.

“We are sick of it,” Carter said. “We’ve had enough of all the racism. If something doesn’t change soon, there will be big trouble.” Police officers stood by, making their presence known, ensuring that Carter and his friends wouldn’t stumble onto the tracks when the streetcar approached.

USA Black Lives Matter Trauer in Dallas Marcus CarterCarter and supporters of Black Lives Matter continue to protest police violence

In the past week, two black men were killed by police, first in Louisiana and then in Minnesota. Videos of their deaths at police hands triggered a national outcry. The activist group Black Lives Matter called for nationwide protests. On Thursday, people of all races and ethnicities united to march against police violence on the streets of Dallas. Suddenly, shots were fired and the masses dispersed.

Other than the fact that five officers had been shot dead overnight, it was not clear what had happened until Friday, when it turned out that a lone sniper had holed up in a building with the intent of shooting police. Officers claim that, just before they killed the man with a bomb delivered by a robot, he had said his intent was to kill white people, though he had specifically targeted police with his fire. It was later reported that the shooting suspect was an Army reservist who had been sent home from deployment in Afghanistan after he was accused of sexual harassment.

Infografik Im Dienst gestorbene/getötete Polizisten in den USA Englisch

‘A mutual path’

On Saturday, Officer Mike Walton stood in front of the Dallas police station and looked at a small square in front of the entrance. Two police cars parked there were covered with heaps of flowers and notes of appreciation and consolation. Red, white and blue balloons floated in the hot air; candles flickered on the ground. From across the region, people had come to pray, sing, cry or pay silent respects.

“Things will never be the same again,” Walton said. “And we still have to go on and look for a mutual path.” He has worked in Dallas for a quarter of a century. As a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, which advocates for law enforcement autonomy, he had worked to develop the department’s de-escalation strategy. He said there were fewer clashes between civilians and police in Dallas than in other major US cities – a fact he is proud of. “We always made sure we worked in mixed teams,” Walton said. “Violence between white policemen and blacks is a big problem.”

Infografik Number of people killed by US police Englisch

In recent years, fresh attention has been drawn to police violence in the United States, but the events of the past week have little precedent in the country’s modern history. “We should not allow ourselves to be guided by hate and anger,” said Dorris Kenny, an African-American woman who has lived in the Dallas area for over 40 years. She said Dallas had appeared to be on the right path for handling the US’s history of racial injustice.

Nonetheless, she was concerned about the consequences of last week’s shootings – not just in Dallas, but in the rest of the country, as well. “There are still politicians who incite racial hatred,” Kenny said. “That is dangerous, and we should not allow it.” In the end, the upcoming elections will decide which route the United States will take in the future: “Do we want to work on making America a home for everyone? Or do we want to trigger a dangerous racial war?”

At a memorial, people put their hands together to pray. Young and old, black and white, they stood side by side in long lines or formed circles; black hands clasped white hands. In that moment of sorrow, skin color and social status were temporarily not in the foreground. Later in the evening, the hot summer air cooled after a thunderstorm. It felt like a short breather in a long summer in which the United States will decide what kind of future it wants.

DW RECOMMENDS

Black Lives Matter Was Gaining Ground. Then a Sniper Opened Fire.

Photo

Demonstrators in Brooklyn on Friday, one day after five police officers were killed in Dallas, protest the recent police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. CreditAndres Kudacki/Associated Press

It felt like a watershed moment for a scattered and still-young civil rights movement.

Inside Black Lives Matter, the national revulsion over videos of police officers shooting to death black men in Minnesota and Louisiana was undeniable proof that the group’s message of outrage and demands for justice had finally broken through.

Even the white governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, in a pained public concession, embraced the movement’s central argument. “Would this have happened if those passengers — the driver and the passengers — were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve.”

Then, in an instant, everything changed.

Black Lives Matter now faces perhaps the biggest crisis in its short history: It is both scrambling to distance itself from an African-American sniper in Dallas who set out to murder white police officers and trying to rebut a chorus of detractors who blame the movement for inspiring his deadly attack.

“What I saw in Dallas was devastating to our work,” said Jedidiah Brown, a Chicago pastor who has emerged as an outspoken Black Lives Matter activist over the past year. The moment he learned of the attack on the police, he said, he immediately sensed that any emerging national consensus would “tear down the middle.”

“The thing I vividly remember thinking was, this is going to show exactly how divided this conversation is,” he said.

For those who have harbored doubts or animosity toward Black Lives Matter — among them police unions and conservative leaders — the Dallas attacks are a cudgel that, fairly or not, they are eager to swing.

Photo

Protesters in Baton Rouge, La., after Alton Sterling was shot to death by Louisiana police officers in the parking lot of the Triple S Food Mart. CreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times

In Texas, several state officials, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, lashed out at the group, directly linking its tone and tactics to the killings. Mr. Patrick acknowledged that the demonstration in Dallas on Thursday night had been peaceful until the gunman struck, but he accused the movement of creating the conditions for what happened. “I do blame former Black Lives Matter protests,” he said.

“This has to stop,” Mr. Patrick said, adding of the police officers, “These are real people.”

State Representative Bill Zedler, a Republican, was equally blunt in his assessment of the group’s influence on the 25-year-old gunman, Micah Johnson.

“Clearly the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters encouraged the sniper that shot Dallas police officers,” he wrote on Twitter.

But a bigger problem for Black Lives Matter, supported by many liberals, is that Mr. Johnson’s actions could jeopardize the movement’s appeal to a broader group of Americans who have gradually become more sympathetic to its cause after years of highly publicized police shootings.

In the days before the Dallas massacre, Aesha Rasheed, 39, an activist in New Orleans, felt that at long last, white and black America were watching the same images with the same horror: two Louisiana police officers tackling and then shooting Alton Sterling, 37, at point-blank range; the slumped, blood-soaked body of Philando Castile, 32, after a Minnesota police officer shot him through a car window, with his girlfriend and her daughter sitting inches away.

“It seemed like a national consciousness was sinking in,” Ms. Rasheed said.

After the massacre in Dallas, she said, “it turned on a dime.”

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She now worries that the episodes involving black men may be overshadowed and overlooked.

“Does this get ignored?” she asked. “Do five officers take center stage?”

Black Lives Matter usually spurns central planning and management. But in a sign of alarm over the volatile situation, leaders of several organizations associated with the movement put out formal statements that repeatedly described the Dallas attacker as a lone gunman, unconnected to the group’s cause.

“There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans,” read a statement from the Black Lives Matter Network. “We should reject all of this.”

The police have said Mr. Johnson — a military veteran who told the authorities that he had hunted down white police officers as retribution for their abuses — had no direct links to any protest group.

But in recounting Mr. Johnson’s final hours, Chief David O. Brown of the Dallas Police Department mentioned the movement by name. “The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter,” he said.

The wider world may now expect or even demand a period of reflection and restraint from the members of Black Lives Matter.

But public, nonviolent confrontation, rather than private conciliation, is central to the group’s mission: shouting at police officers, for example, or staging elaborate “die-ins” that evoke death at the hands of law enforcement.

Photo

On Friday protesters marched through downtown Phoenix, where officers used pepper spray and beanbag guns to keep demonstrators from taking over Interstate 10. CreditRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

This in-your-face style has at times rankled even the movement’s allies: A Black Lives Matter protester interrupted Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont during a Seattle campaign rally in August and seized control of his microphone, inflaming his aides and some of his supporters. “Excuse me!” Mr. Sanders cried.

That combative approach is deliberate. The group is premised, activists said, on a rejection of what they see as a dominant mainstream culture that has marginalized the value of African-American lives for decades.

Black Lives Matter was born, as a phrase and a rallying cry, after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American 17-year-old. By the time demonstrators took to the streets of Ferguson, Mo., a year later to protest the killing of Michael Brown, another unarmed African-American, it was the motto and name of a decentralized collection of activists.

Today, at least 37 groups operate under the movement’s name, and tens of thousands of supporters identify with its cause.

In interviews on Friday, activists scoffed at calls to recalibrate their message or their strategy, or to temporarily pause protests out of respect for the dead police officers in Texas.

By Friday night, protesters had returned to the streets in multiple cities, swarming the Williamsburg Bridge in New York; shutting down a major highway in Atlanta; and marching through downtown Phoenix, where officers used pepper spray and beanbag guns to keep the demonstrators from taking over Interstate 10. In each city, the protesters were trailed by the police, as they were in Dallas.

But it was clear that the national conversation had changed. On social media, Black Lives Matter activists watched with dismay on Thursday night as a squall of outrage and mourning over the shootings of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile was suddenly overwhelmed by a furious outcry over the shooting of Dallas police officers and messages of rage directed at activists and protesters. The hashtag #blacklivesmatter was joined by #bluelivesmatter, a rival reference to police officers.

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About 250 demonstrators gathered for a rally at Union Square in Manhattan on Friday night. A smaller group marched through the East Village and Chelsea, then to Grand Central Terminal and Columbus Circle.

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“This anti-cop rhetoric has to stop. It’s sickening,” wrote one Twitter user using the hashtag. “We will not forget or forgive,” wrote another.

Sitting in his bed after midnight with an iPhone, DeRay Mckesson, 30, a Black Lives Matter activist, watched the rapid change in tone. “It suddenly became about blame,” he said. “People wanted to link it to the protesters no matter what.”

Undeterred, several activists rebuffed the view of the carnage in Dallas as a potential setback to their cause. Ja’Mal Green, another activist, said the killings were, in their own grisly way, a powerful wake-up call.

“It’s not a setback at all,” Mr. Green said. “That’s showing the people of this country that black people are getting to a boiling point. We are tired of watching police kill our brothers and sisters. We are tired of being tired.”

He insisted that he was not encouraging violence. But he said there “comes a time when black people will snap.”

He added: “It only takes a couple to get past that boiling point. You saw that in Dallas.”

As conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh assailed Black Lives Matter as “a terrorist group committing hate crimes,” activists like Wendi Moore-O’Neal saw echoes of repeated attempts throughout American history, including efforts by the federal government, to discredit civil rights groups and leaders.

“It’s just made up,” she said of those who held Black Lives Matter responsible in any way for the Dallas attack. “It’s not true.”

“I can’t think of any of the justice or liberation organizations that I know,” Ms. Moore-O’Neal said, “that have an investment in shooting cops.”