What we know: 

-- Three law enforcement officers are confirmed dead in Sunday's Baton Rouge shooting; three others were injured.

-- The officers slain are Montrell JacksonBrad Garafola and Matthew Gerald. Injured deputies are Nicholas Tullier and Bruce Simmons. An injured BRPD officer hasn't been identified.

-- The one shooter/suspect Gavin Eugene Long is dead. He's been connected to an extremist online persona.

-- The shooting happened near Airline and Old Hammond highways around 8:45 a.m. Sunday.

What we don't know: 

-- Why Long was in Baton Rouge and how long he had been here. State Police confirmed Monday that Long "certainly was seeking out police officers."

Full story

Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers were killed on Sunday and three others wounded in an attack by a lone gunman with an assault style rifle, once again thrusting Louisiana’s capital city into the national spotlight.

The shootings were the latest chapter in two convulsive weeks in which the nation was transfixed by video accounts of the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police on July 5 and a separate shooting of a black motorist in Minnesota. Two days later, five Dallas police officers were gunned down in an attack eerily similar to Sunday’s shooting on Airline Highway.

The gun battle — in which the attacker was killed — unfolded not far from police headquarters, the scene of often tense protests over the killing of Sterling.

The suspect, identified by law enforcement sources as Gavin Eugene Long, of Kansas City, Missouri, is believed to have been the only shooter involved, State Police officials said. Two others who were later detained in West Baton Rouge Parish and questioned were released late Sunday.

It was unclear why Long was in Baton Rouge, how long he had been here and whether he came to confront police. He had traveled to Dallas shortly after the five police officers were shot there on July 7.

The shootings in Baton Rouge took place as officers responded to a report of a man armed with an assault-style rifle near a convenience store at Airline Highway near the Hammond Aire Plaza.

As President Barack Obama, Gov. John Bel Edwards and others weighed in on an incident that filled the national airwaves, some details began to emerge Sunday afternoon about the victims and the shooter.

The law enforcement officer victims were identified as Baton Rouge police officers Montrell Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola, 45.

Garafola’s widow, Tonja Garafola, said he was working extra duty at the convenience store. She said his shift had ended at 8 a.m., the last shift he had to work before heading out Monday on vacation.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said Brad Garafola was killed when he saw the two Baton Rouge police officers under fire.

“He lost his life going to the aid of a Baton Rouge police officer. He saw the officer down and ran in the direction of the shots to try and render aid.”

“I’ve been knowing him since before he became a sheriff’s deputy. (He was) just a good guy, a good family man,” Gautreaux said of Brad Garafola.

Gautreaux said Sunday that a 41-year-old deputy was “fighting for his life,” while another 51-year-old deputy underwent surgery with nonlife-threatening wounds. Gautreaux said all the deputies involved are married with families.

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Edwards and East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden stood with grim faces to update the public on the stunning killings less than two weeks after a sniper killed five officers and injured others in Dallas.

State Police Supt. Col. Mike Edmonson gave a nearly minute-by-minute account of how events unfolded, with Baton Rouge Police officers receiving a call at 8:40 a.m. about a man carrying a rifle walking in the area of Airline Highway and Goodwood Boulevard.

Can’t see the video? Click here

 

Soon afterward, Baton Rouge officers responding to the call for help at B-Quik on Airline Highway just north of Old Hammond Highway saw a person dressed in all black standing behind a beauty supply store holding a rifle, Edmonson said.

At 8:42 a.m., a call came in to officers that shots were fired, he said. Two minutes later, another call surfaced that officers were down at the scene, he said. At 8:45 a.m., law enforcement received another report of shots fired, he said.

By 8:46 a.m., officials received a report that the suspect was standing near a car wash next to the convenience store, Edmonson said. Two minutes later, emergency medical responders arrived to tend to the wounded, he said.

“Officers engaged the subject at that particular time, and he ultimately died at the scene,” Edmonson said.

While the initial call and gun battle played out over a period of about 30 minutes, confusion and fear paralyzed the city all day as officers tried to determine whether the killer had accomplices, and their probe kept Airline Highway shut down for hours.

Gautreaux said Sunday’s events stem from “what’s in men’s hearts.”

“And until we come together as a nation, as a people, to heal, as a people, if we don’t do that, and this madness continues, we will surely perish as a people. So I would just ask for your prayers and support,” said Gautreaux.

Edwards said he’s been in touch with President Barack Obama, who called to express his condolences, and said agents from the FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are responding to the shooting.

“It’s unjustified, it’s unjustifiable. The violence, the hatred just has to stop,” said Edwards. “It’s at times like this I wish the command of the English language I have were more adequate for the task to convey the full range of emotions that I am feeling, and to express them on behalf of the state of Louisiana.”

Holden said Sunday was a “truly sad day in Baton Rouge” and said he sought justice for the city’s first responders.

“Now, we pledge to them and their families that we will be their first responders who must strive every day to be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” he said. “We pray for peace everywhere.”

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, whose department has faced some criticism over two weeks during protests following the fatal shooting of Sterling by a Baton Rouge police officer, asked for prayers and unity.

“We’ll get through this as a family,” Dabadie said. “We’ll get through this as a community. But I want all of the BRPD officers to know that I support you. Every single one of them, I stand with you, I stand beside you and we are going to get through this. This is not going to tarnish this city or this department. We are going to move forward.”

Speaking to the nation, Obama said he has offered state and local officials the “full support of the federal government.”

“Our hearts go out to the families that are grieving, our hearts go out to the officer who is still fighting for his life,” Obama said.

He cautioned about politicizing the incident and using divisive rhetoric.

“We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric; we need to temper our words and open our hearts,” he said.

After making his statement, Obama did not reply to questions from reporters who asked if he planned to come to Baton Rouge, as he visited Dallas last week following the fatal shooting of the five officers there.

The encounter with the gunman, who was carrying what a law enforcement source said was an “AR-15-style” assault rifle, played out over the course of about a half hour, according to a review of police radio dispatches.

Officers who responded were fired upon within minutes of arriving, and the scene on Airline Highway was basically secured after the shooter was located and killed.

L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman, said the gunman was killed near the convenience store. Police sent a robot inside to determine whether there were any explosives, he said.

The shooting of the law enforcement officers Sunday came after a night in which there were no large protest gatherings in Baton Rouge of the type that had been mounted in the days after Sterling was shot.

Thousands of people had turned out on Friday for an emotional funeral for Sterling, 37, who was shot after a brief confrontation with two police officers on July 5. There were no large protests on Friday. And Saturday, when some feared the possibility of more protests, was a quiet day in Baton Rouge.

Sterling’s shooting, which was captured on video and went viral on social media, occurred about 12:35 a.m. after two officers responded to a call about a man who was threatening someone outside the store with a gun.

Police have said Sterling was reaching for a gun in his pocket as they struggled to get him in handcuffsduring a struggle. Two cellphone videos show that the officers had Sterling pinned to the ground when shots were fired. Police have said he was armed.

Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s 15-year-old son, Cameron, and her legal team issued a statement Sunday denouncing the attacks on the Baton Rouge law enforcement officers.

“We are disgusted by the despicable act of violence today that resulted in the shooting deaths of members of Baton Rouge law enforcement,” she said.

“My family is heartbroken for the officers and their families. We are praying for them, city leadership and the Baton Rouge community. As my son Cameron and I have said from the beginning, all we want is peace. We reject violence of any kind directed at members of law enforcement or citizens.”

The statement continued: “My hope is that one day soon we can come together and find solutions to the very important issues facing our nation rather than continuing to hurt one another.”

Edmonson, the State Police superintendent, said he knew some of the slain officers. One, he said, he had recently encountered in the State Police cafeteria.

“He had a smiling face,” Edmonson said. “I told him, ‘I love your smile.’ ”

Advocate staff reporters Steve Hardy, Jim Mustian, Rebekah Allen, Elizabeth Crisp, Terry Jones and Tim Boone contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:15 p.m. Monday, July 18, to clarify that wounded East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputy Nicholas Tullier is not on life support but has a machine helping him breathe. 

Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.

mlau@theadvocate.com