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Obama Calls Baton Rouge Assault an Attack on U.S., Rule of Law

Shooter 'described himself as being upset with the police killing black men'

Law enforcement officers man a road block on Airline Highway and Goodwood Blvd. after police were shot earlier in the day in Baton Rouge, La.
Law enforcement officers man a road block on Airline Highway and Goodwood Blvd. after police were shot earlier in the day in Baton Rouge, La. / AP
• July 18, 2016 5:00 am

President Obama urged Americans to avoid divisive rhetoric Sunday after a gunman fatally shot three police officers and wounded three others Sunday morning in Baton Rouge, La.

Addressing the second assault against police during the past two weeks, Obama said that "nothing justifies attacks on law enforcement." Officials have yet to state a motive for the attack.

Authorities identified the gunman as Gavin Long from Kansas City, Mo. Long, who turned 29 July 17, was a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. He was killed in a shootout with police, according to authorities.

A review of Long's "vast online presence" by BuzzFeed found that "he described himself as being upset with the police killing black men, a life guru, and a person concerned with government surveillance."

Obama said the shooting of police officers was detrimental to the fabric of society.

"Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible," he said in a public address from the White House briefing room.

He called attacks on officers the "work of cowards who speak for no one" in a written statement released earlier in the day.

Racial tensions have escalated across the nation following the recent shootings of two black men by white police officers earlier this month in Baton Rouge, La., and a town outside of St. Paul, Minn. The latest attack on police officers occurred a little over a week after an Army veteran shot and killed five officers during a peaceful rally protesting the killings in Dallas, Texas.

The president spoke less than 24 hours before the Republican National Convention was set to kick off, calling on elected officials to emphasize unity.

"We don't need inflammatory rhetoric. We don't need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts … all of us," he said.

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden said the officers were responding to a call of a man carrying a gun on Airline Highway when the suspect opened fire around 9 a.m. local time. Two Baton Rouge police officers and one sheriff’s deputy were killed.

Lawmakers and presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were quick to condemn the attack.

"We will not tolerate brutal violence against law enforcement–the people who dedicate their lives to protecting Americans," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

Trump called the United States a "divided crime scene," blaming the latest attacks on a "lack of leadership" in social media posts.

Clinton meanwhile called the shootings "devastating."

"There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who just put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities," she said in a statement. "We must not turn our backs on each other. We must not be indifferent to each other. We must all stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities."