(Reuters) - The six Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers killed or wounded in an attack on Sunday morning ranged from a newcomer to the force to veteran officers, officials said, in the latest mass shooting to afflict a U.S. city.
Three officers died and a fourth was fighting for his life after the attack by a suspect who opened fire on them in Louisiana’s capital city.
The suspect, identified by a U.S. official as Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri, was believed to have acted alone.
The dead included Montrell Jackson, a 32-year-old new father who had served for 10 years with the Baton Rouge Police Department, and Matthew Gerald, at 41 a newly minted law enforcement officer with a military background, the police department said on its Facebook page.
Also slain was Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola, 45, a father of four, local media reported, citing Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Garafola’s wife, Tonja.
“He loved us so much,” Tonja Garafola told the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper. “He didn’t deserve this.”
Friends and relatives of Jackson took to Facebook to remember him.
“Rest in Peace to my former partner and one of the best cops I’ve ever known... His name was Montrell Jackson!” Facebook user Marcus Tillman said in a post, which received more than 8,000 likes and 6,000 shares by midday on Sunday. “He was a black life that apparently didn’t matter to the one that took it!”
The Facebook page shows several pictures of a baby boy, and comments suggested that the child was Jackson’s son.
“Cuz, this is you all over again,” commenter Catina Williams Alexander wrote beneath the photo of the child. The Facebook page includes a picture of a police badge, posted in 2015.
Jonathan Saunders, a friend of Jackson, said the officer was a big man - but gentle and kind.
“He was 220 pounds of Teddy Bear,” said Saunders, who now lives in New Orleans and once worked at a Laser Tag business where Jackson was a part-time security guard. “If you needed a hug, you could walk up to him and hug him. He cared about everybody.”
Saunders said in a phone interview that Jackson’s child was just a few months old.
A Facebook page belonging to Matthew Gerald in Baton Rouge featured images of law enforcement badges, and friends and family posted condolences on a page that appeared to belong to his wife.
Earlier in the day, Dechia Badeaux Gerald posted a news video of the shooting aftermath with the comment: “Everyone please pray!!! My husband along with others is out there.”
A 41-year-old sheriff’s deputy was in critical condition, “fighting for his life as we speak,” said Gautreaux.
In addition, one sheriff’s deputy was in surgery for non-life-threatening injuries, Gautreaux said. A 41-year-old Baton Rouge police officer, on the force for nine years, also received a non-life-threatening injury, Dabadie said.
“We are grieving for each other, we are grieving for our loss and we are grieving for our families,” Gautreaux told a news conference on Sunday.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Melissa Fares and Steve Gorman; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney