BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Across this city, shocked residents have gathered in churches and at community vigils to pray for the law enforcement community and the three officers who were slain in an ambush by a gunman.
Families with children, drivers passing through and law enforcement officers from outside the area have been laying flowers and balloons or hanging crosses at a makeshift memorial in front of the B-Quick convenience store near where the officers were killed Sunday.
Funeral arrangements for two of the officers have been made public: Montrell Jackson, a 10-year police force veteran with a newborn at home, will be laid to rest Monday. Visitation for Matthew Gerald, an Iraq war veteran who became a Baton Rouge police officer less than a year ago, will be held Thursday and Friday. Funeral services will be held Friday.
Arrangements for 45-year-old Brad Garafola, an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy and a father of four, have not been made public.
The three are among 10 law enforcement officers killed over a span of 10 turbulent days around the country by attackers – at a protest march in Dallas, a courthouse in Michigan and now a convenience store in Baton Rouge.
The officers lived in the area of Denham Springs, a quiet bedroom community across the Amite River from Baton Rouge, which has been in turmoil for two weeks. Tensions rose sharply after the death of Alton Sterling, 37, a black man killed by white Baton Rouge officers after a scuffle at a convenience store. The killing was captured on cellphone video.
As the nation debates race and policing, this community of about 10,000 is mourning three of its sons — all husbands and fathers described by friends as being committed to protecting and serving the public.
Gavin Long, a former Marine from Missouri dressed in black and carrying extra ammunition, opened fire on officers about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, police said.
Garafola and Gerald were white. Jackson was black, as was the gunman. Three other officers were wounded. One of them, Deputy Nicholas Tullier, was in critical condition. The gunman was killed at the scene.
“The world is crazy right now. It is complete chaos,” Jackson’s sister-in-law Lauren Rose said. “And it all needs to stop, everything. We all need peace.”
Gerald was a Marine from 1994 to 1998. He later joined the Army and served as a decorated soldier from 2002 to 2009, including three tours in Iraq. He will be buried at the Louisiana National Cemetery for veterans.
Ryan Cabral served with Gerald on a helicopter crew in Iraq.
“Like most other police officers, they go where they’re needed,” said Cabral, an Army veteran and police officer in Temple, Texas. “They know what the dangers are, but that’s how they’re made. They’re made to serve.”
Jackson’s father-in-law, Lonnie Jordan, called him a “gentle giant” — tall and stout and formidable looking, but with a peaceful disposition. Jordan said his son-in-law had been working long hours since Sterling was killed.
Jackson posted on Facebook that he was physically and emotionally tired. He wrote that while in uniform he gets nasty looks and out of uniform some consider him a threat.
Garafola’s friends described him as a man committed to public service and devoted to his family.
Sgt. Gerald Parker, a close friend, described him as a “jack of all trades” who enjoyed helping people in his neighborhood, like mending their fences or mowing their lawns.
“All these officers are heroes. Some people would run. But these gentlemen leave their families knowing something can happen,” Parker said.
Associated Press Writer Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.