BATON ROUGE, La. – The horrific scene unfolded in a matter of minutes, a black-clad man with military training stalking law enforcement officers and ignoring horrified onlookers as he shot anyone he could find wearing a badge.
Police say Gavin Long, 29, of Kansas City, Missouri, brazenly prowled a crime scene of hundreds of yards around a cluster of nondescript buildings along a busy highway, rifle pointed straight ahead as he sought targets.
And they say he shot to kill.
“It is chilling in the sheer brutality,” Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said Monday, describing surveillance videos that recorded Long as he gunned down three law enforcement officers Sunday and wounded three more before he was shot and killed. “These officers were intentionally targeted and assassinated. It was a calculated act.”
Two of the slain officers were from the Baton Rouge Police Department: 32-year-old Montrell Jackson and 41-year-old Matthew Gerald. The third was a deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, 45-year-old Brad Garafola.
Officials provided the first detailed accounts of the shooting scene Monday, using a map to describe the chaotic shootout with Long. Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie wouldn’t say who was shot at which location, and he hasn’t named his wounded officer.
Carrying two rifles and a pistol, Long parked his car near a beauty supply store mid-morning. Gun raised and faced partially covered with a ski mask, he approached a parked police car at the gas station and convenience store next door – only to find the unit empty. Authorities believe the first 911 call came in, reporting a “dude with a rifle,” as he returned to his car.
Undeterred, Long located another possible target at a nearby car wash. But again he was thwarted. Edmonson said by the time the former Marine parked his car, the officer there had driven away.
He wasn’t interested in anyone without a badge, officials said.
“Other people, he totally ignored them. He acted like they weren’t even there,” East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.
Long stalked the area, searching, as more 911 calls poured in and officers arrived.
Turning the front corner of the beauty supply store, the gunman spotted his first marks: two Baton Rouge police officers. Without hesitation, Long shot both, Gautreaux said, leaving one dead and the second crawling toward the back of store.
Garafola, taking cover behind a dumpster at the store with his gun drawn, tried to rescue his wounded fellow officer – only to run face-to-face into Long. The shooter took aim at Garafola, killing him in a hail of gunfire. Video shows bullets hitting the concrete around him, Gautreaux said.
“My deputy went down fighting. He returned fire until the very end,” the sheriff said.
Long then noticed the wounded city police officer on the ground and took two close-range shots, Gautreaux said.
With three officers dead, another city police officer caught Long’s attention as he rounded his way back behind the beauty supply store. Long stopped, turned and shot, wounding the officer before heading around back, jumping a wall and running past the convenience store and the car wash.
There, sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Tullier, 41, had returned to his police car after getting the license plate from Long’s rental vehicle.
Long fired directly into the car, shooting Tullier in the head and stomach, walking ever closer as he pulled the trigger, Gautreaux said, before exchanging gunfire with Deputy Bruce Simmons, 57.
Simmons went down with a shot to the shoulder that required a titanium rod to replace an arm bone shattered by the gunman’s bullet. Tullier’s injuries were even worse. He’s in critical condition, a machine helping him to breathe, “fighting for his life,” Gautreaux said.
Before Long could get any nearer, a shot rang out from over a hundred years away, as an officer with the city police SWAT unit took down the gunman with the sort of textbook manoeuvr officers learn in their tactical training. Dabadie called it “a helluva shot.”
Authorities say without that shot, they believe Long would have continued the killing spree, possibly driving a short distance down the highway to the Baton Rouge police headquarters.
“This guy was going to another location. He was not going to stop here,” Dabadie said pointing to a map laying out the scene of the carnage. “After he was finished here, I have no doubt he was heading to our headquarters and he was going to take more lives.”