WASHINGTON >> The attacks on public servants and the rule of law “have to stop,” President Barack Obama said Sunday after another shooting spree targeting police killed three officers in Baton Rouge and wounded three others.
Obama said the motive for Sunday’s attack, the second targeting police in less than two weeks, was unknown, but there is no justification for violence against law enforcement.
“These attacks are the work of cowards who speak for no one,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “They right no wrongs. They advance no causes.”
Obama called Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden to hear the latest on the investigation into the shootings and pledge federal support. He is also expected to address the nation from the White House later Sunday afternoon.
Obama has spent most of the last week focused on defusing tensions and rebuilding trust between police departments and the communities they serve.
Now, a second attack has further placed a nation on edge as Americans anxiously watch the spate of violence at home and abroad with Friday’s attack in Nice, France, contributing to a picture of a troubled world.
“The officers in Baton Rouge, the officers in Dallas, they were our fellow Americans, part of our community, part of our country, with people who loved and needed them, and who need us now — all of us — to be at our best,” Obama said.
On July 7, an Army veteran opened fire on law enforcement in Dallas, killing five and wounding seven other officers. The shooter said he wanted to kill white people, “especially white officers.” Obama spoke at the memorial service for the five officers killed and told Americans not to despair, that the nation is not as divided as it might seem.
The next day, he held an extraordinary four-hour meeting at the White House’s executive offices with police officers, community activists and elected leaders. He emerged from the session saying “we’re not even close” to the point where minority communities could feel confident that police departments were serving them with respect and equality or where police departments could feel adequately supported at all levels.
“We have to, as a country, sit down and just grind it out, solve these problems,” Obama said after the meeting.
The shooting of the police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were preceded by police shootings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, which sparked protests around the country. Dallas police were defending protesters in that city when the black gunman opened fire on them.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that agents from the FBI and ATF are on the scene of the shooting in Baton Rouge, and the Justice Department will make available victim services and assist the investigation to the fullest extent possible.