On July 17, 2016, the lives of law enforcement and civilian lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana changed forever. It was a Sunday and it was hot outside of the B-Quick convenience store, less than a quarter of a mile from the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters. The B-Quick store was in a location that was very convenient, busy, and their ready supply of hot coffee and cold drinks made them a common and frequent destination of officers from the police department.
A lone crazed gunman who was a member of an anti-government group called the Sovereign Citizens Movement was likely on his way to the police headquarters where he planned to murder police officers. When he saw all of the police vehicles and officers around the B-Quick convenience store, however, he decided that this was an opportune location for the evil he had planned.
The gunman left multiple long guns, extra ammunition, and pistols in his car along with a suicide note, heading towards the officers. He murdered three officers and injured three others.
Corporal Montrell Lyle Jackson, Police Officer Matthew Lane Gerald, and Deputy Sheriff Bradford Allen Garafola, Sr. were murdered.
Corporal Montrell Lyle Jackson served with the Baton Rouge Police Department for ten years. He is survived by his wife and then infant son. In a Facebook post, after the ambush and murder of five Dallas officers exactly ten days prior to his own murder, Corporal Jackson wrote, “If you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer, I got you.”
Police Officer Matthew Lane Gerald was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the Baton Rouge Police Department for nine months. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, and a son who was born after his father was killed. Gerald and his wife did not know they were expecting another child at the time of his death.
Deputy Sheriff Bradford Allen Garafola, Sr. served with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office for twenty-four years. He is survived by his wife and four children. “He was a great guy. Not just a great law enforcement, he was a great husband and a great father,” Garafola’s wife, Tonja said. “He didn’t deserve this. He always helped everybody.”
Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tullier was hit three times, including in the head. He was not expected to survive and has since undergone intensive rehabilitation in Houston and returned to Baton Rouge in 2020. His injuries have left him prone to pneumonia and he is non-verbal and has severe permanent neurological problems.
In a briefing about the events from that terrible day, Col. Michael Edmonson, the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, provided this timeline of how the attack unfolded:
- Approximately 8:40 a.m.: “Baton Rouge P.D. officers at the convenience store observed the individual. He was wearing all black and standing behind a beauty supply store holding a rifle.”
- Approximately 8:42 a.m.: “Reports received of shots fired.”
- Approximately 8:44 a.m.: “Reports received of officers down on the scene.”
- 8:45 a.m.: “Reports received of more shots being fired.”
- 8:46 a.m.: “Reports received of the suspect, again wearing all black, standing near a car wash located right next to the convenience store.”
- 8:48 a.m.: “Our [Emergency Medical Services] units started arriving at the scene, they were staging. They started approaching and getting the bodies that were at the scene to render first aid. Officers engaged the subject at that particular time, and he ultimately died at the scene. That was officers responding to the scene itself. State police and multiple agencies responded to the scene and attempted to secure the area, and identify possible potential suspects and further threats in the area.”
Officials held a briefing on the Baton Rouge shooting on July 17, 2016.
Chris Stewart was an investigator on the scene on July 17, 2016. He recalls that many of the officers had not had a day off in twenty days, since they had been working the protests in the aftermath of the Alton Sterling shooting. July 17 was the first day that there had been no protests so the SWAT team was finally unloading their gear at the police department headquarters when the call came that they were needed. They were able to respond more swiftly as a result and one of them who was a former military sniper was able to shoot the suspect from 300 yards away and save countless lives. If they had not done so and the gunman had been able to return to his car, where he had more guns and ammunition, there is no telling how many more people would have been murdered.
Stewart recalls how at first they thought there were multiple shooters since the suspect was a U.S. Marine veteran and extremely well trained. He and other investigators had to watch surveillance tapes of what had happened to their fellow officers approximately a dozen times at different angles to make certain exactly what had occurred. One thing, which struck Stewart in particular, as a veteran of the United States Marines, was that Officer Gerald was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and so was his murderer, which meant that one U.S. Marine had shot and killed another.
Five years after this senseless tragedy, we remember the heroes who were killed and injured as well as their families, we think of the community of Baton Rouge, and we stand with the brave men and women in law enforcement who bravely show up and serve every day no matter the danger or personal risk.