Baton Rouge police Officer Montrell Jackson was one of three officers killed in Baton Rouge shootout
"Please don't let hate infect your heart," Jackson said in Facebook post a week before his death
Four days after the police-involved shooting of Alton Sterling turned his city upside down, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police Officer Montrell Jackson issued a plea to his embattled community and vowed to do his part to help it heal.
“These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better,” the 32-year-old officer wrote in a July 8 Facebook post.
And, to all the protesters, officers, friends, family and neighbors in need of a hug or a prayer in Baton Rouge, he offered a promise: “I got you.”
One week later, on Sunday, Jackson’s life was cut short in a shootout that left three officers dead and three more injured, law enforcement said.
Jackson’s aunt revealed his identity to CNN, simply saying, “Today isn’t going too well.”
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office identified the other slain officers as Matthew Gerald, 41, of the Baton Rouge police and Brad Garafola, 45, a sheriff’s deputy.
Visitation and services for Jackson will be on July 25 in Baton Rouge, according to the Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police. Gerald’s viewing will be held on Thursday and Friday followed by services and burial on Friday.
Nicholas Tullier and Bruce Simmons of the uniform patrol traffic division in the sheriff’s were critically injured, the sheriff’s office said.
Tullier, 41, was shot in the head and stomach and is in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said Monday.
“The biggest concern is the head trauma and his condition is very, very critical,” said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux told CNN affiliate WWL-TV. “It’s been touch and go for the family. He’s been in and out. His vitals have gone up and down. At this point, we’re just praying for him. It’s in God’s hands. He’s not in good shape at all.”
Simmons, 51, was released from Our Lady of the Lake hospital Monday after undergoing surgery to insert a titanium rod in his arm, Gautreaux told WWL.
The deadly standoff was the latest blow to a city plagued by tensions in the wake of Sterling’s July 5 death. His death, followed by another police-involved shooting the same week in Minnesota, touched off demonstrations nationwide that have led to arrests, roadway closures, and renewed conversation over the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
’No place for more violence’
As Baton Rouge reels from the events that sent tremors throughout their community, city officials expressed their condolences, and made a call for peace.
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday. “Obviously our community is hurting, and only through peace can we heal, and that’s going to take meaningful dialogue. There simply is no place for more violence.”
“We are going to get through this, and we are going to get through this together,” Baton Rouge police Chief Carl Dabadie said at the same press conference. “This is not going to tarnish this city or this department. We are going to move forward.”
Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of one of Sterling’s son, Cameron, condemned the shootings.
“We reject violence of any kind directed at members of law enforcement or citizens.” she said in a statement Sunday. “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.”
Jackson leaves behind a wife and 4-month old son, his first child. He had been with the department for 10 years, his uncle Charles Cavalier told CNN affiliate WAFB-TV.
“He cried when he found out that he was going to have a son and he was so excited,” Cavalier told WAFB. “The baby looks just like him.”
Jackson’s brother, Kedrick Pitts, told NPR it was devastating that his nephew will never get the chance to know his father.
“He always wanted to become a father,” Pitts said.
Jackson loved the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans almost as much as he loved his family, his community and his job, Cavalier said.
He was “one of the best guys you’d ever want to know,” Cavalier said.
To those who shared Jackson’s Facebook post after it surfaced on social media, the missive spoke volumes about his character.
It also offered rare, candid insight into the impact of Sterling’s death on officers in the community.
“I’m tired physically and emotionally,” the post starts, “Disappointed in some family, friends, and officers for some reckless comments but hey, what’s in your heart is in your heart. I still love you all because hate it takes too much energy, but I definitely won’t be looking at you the same.”
Kristi Vick Godal, Jackson’s neighbor, told NBC News that Jackson was pained by the events surrounding Sterling’s death, including the protests that followed.
“He loved his city,” Godal said. “It is an absolute tragedy. He was a police officer, but he was also a proud black man.”
What Jackson wanted most was for “everyone to respect everyone,” his brother said. He wanted justice for Sterling’s family, but peace among all.
“I believe he would want this world to be a better place, to put an end to all this madness and come together,” Pitts said.
In his Facebook post, Jackson described the tension between his job and his identity a black man.
“I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I’ve experienced so much in my short life and these last 3 days have tested me to the core. When people you know begin to question your integrity you realize they don’t know you at all,” he wrote.
To anyone who doubted his integrity he made one request: “Look at my actions, they speak LOUD and CLEAR.”
Gerald of Denham Springs, Louisiana, leaves behind a wife and two daughters, according to WAFB.
He graduated from Baton Rouge Police Academy in March and had just been released to work on his own on July 5, his wife told WAFB.
He was a former Marine and Black Hawk crew chief in the Army who “lived to be a patriot,” his friend Nick Lambert said. The two served together as Black Hawk crew chiefs, he said.
Despite his short stature, Gerald had a larger-than-life personality that made him stand out in a crowd, Lambert said.
“He was one of the true Americans that lived to be a patriot,” Lambert said.
After serving in both the Marines and the Army, and after three tours to Iraq, Gerald wasn’t ready to call it quits, his friend and fellow police Officer Ryan Cabral, who lives in Texas, told CNN.
“Instead of slowing down at 40 years old, he said ‘hell no, give me more,’ ” Cabral said. “Matt was born to protect those who needed protection,” he said.
He repaired helicopters in the Army and was a food specialist in the Marines.
As a Marine, he received the National Defense Service and Marine Corps Good Conduct medals.
He deployed with the Army to Iraq in the beginning and middle of the war and served a particularly long deployment toward the end of the battle – fighting there from November 2007 to January 2009, according to the military.
Less than a week before the fatal shootout, Gerald and Cabral spoke on the phone. The two officers discussed the tumultuous climate in Baton Rouge and “told each other to be safe,” Cabral told CNN.
Garafola, a married father of four, had been with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office for 24 years, according to WAFB.
He was selected as the Civil Deputy of the Month in January 2013.
In a tribute to her husband, Tonja Garafola posted a photo on Facebook thanking the community for their prayers, and expressing her state of disbelief. She wrote that Garafola, whom she called “my best friend, my rock, and my hero,” was a wonderful father who gave his all in everything he did.
His brother Brett Garafola confirmed his death in a Facebook post, according to WAFB.
“Brad, I love you very much my brother. I respect and appreciate everything you did for us, this city, and your job to protect and serve,” he wrote.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Justin Lear and Farida Fawzy contributed to this report.