Three law enforcement officers were fatally shot and three others were wounded Sunday morning as a gunman opened fire near a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Two of the officers have been identified by multiple media outlets and friends and family on social media as Montrell Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, both of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Also among the slain: Brad Garafola, a 45-year-old deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
As of Sunday, injured officers included Nicholas Tullier, 41-year-old sheriff’s deputy reportedly in critical condition. Bruce Simmons, 51-year-old deputy, and a 41-year-old Baton Rouge police officer received care for non-life-threatening injuries.
Montrell Jackson, 32, ‘made us feel safe’
A cousin and family friend told the Advocate Sunday that Montrell Jackson, 32, was among the officers killed. Last month, Jackson celebrated his 10th anniversary with the Baton Rouge Police Department, according to city records.
Two weeks ago, as Baton Rouge roiled following the death of Alton Sterling and afterfive officers were shot dead in Dallas, Jackson published an emotional note to Facebook. In it, he lamented the difficulties of being black and a police officer.
“I’m tired physically and emotionally,” Jackson wrote. “I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me.”
He continued: “These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better.
“I’m working these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer. I got you.”
A friend of Jackson’s confirmed the note to the Associated Press.
Darnell Murdock, another one of Jackson’s friends, told the Advocate that Jackson, a new father, loved his job.
“It motivated him to go out and change people’s lives. He was on (the force) to help people, to make you have a better day,” Murdock told the newspaper, describing Jackson as “humble, kind and sweet.”
“He wasn’t on there to write tickets,” the friend said. “I don’t understand how this could happen to someone like him.”
Claire Langlois, a Baton Rouge resident who worked at Laser Tag of Baton Rouge in 2008, met Jackson when he worked as an off-duty security officer there.
“Montrell had such a bright personality,” she said. “He would come in on Fridays and Saturdays and always come in to tell everyone working ‘hello.'”
His humor and his friendliness made her and the rest of the staff feel a lot safer, she said.
“He laughed all the time, and it was one of those deep laughs,” she recalled.
“A lot of times after work, we would stand outside around his police unit and just talk about different things happening in our lives, current events or whatever new movies had just come out.”
“He made us feel safe.”
When business was slow, she said Jackson would go inside and talk to the Laser Tag employees.
“He wasn’t just an officer who was there to contain rowdy crowds on weekend nights,” Langlois said. “He was family.”
She said Jackson was an example of a police officer who seemed to care deeply about the people and the community he served.
Every night he worked, she would walk by his unit to tell him goodnight.
When the store would close up at night, Langlois said Jackson wouldn’t leave until everyone at Laser Tag was out of the building and headed home, and that stuck with her.
“He really was just a kind-hearted and gentle person,” Langlois said. “He was the kind of guy who represents the badge in the very best way.”
Matthew Gerald, 41, served in the Marines and Army
Before Matthew Gerald joined the Baton Rouge Police Department, the 41-year-old served with both the Marines and the Army, according to the Washington Post. He was a father of two daughters.
Friends said Gerald deployed to Iraq three times, describing to the newspaper as an avid Louisiana State University football fan who loved bass fishing.
One of those friends, Ryan D. Cabral, served alongside Gerald in Iraq. He’s now a police officer in Texas, the Post reported.
“We did our time in the military, and when that time was up, you just can’t turn off that want to serve the people,” Cabral said.
“Today he did his final service by giving his life to protect the citizens of Baton Rouge and his fellow brothers and sisters in uniform.”
SOURCE: Seth Dickerson and Josh Hafner