Baton Rouge officer Montrell Jackson wrote emotional Facebook post before he was killed
10-year veteran wrote about difficulties of being both black and a police officer
Montrell Jackson, one of the three police officers killed Sunday in Baton Rouge in the latest violence in the U.S., had written a Facebook post expressing how difficult it was for him to be both a black man and an officer.
"In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me at threat," wrote Jackson, 32, just days before he was killed in what the Louisiana capital's mayor, Kip Holden, described as an "ambush-style" attack.
Matthew Gerald, 41, who had been with the department less than a year, and Brad Garafola, a 45-year-old sheriff's deputy and 24-year police veteran, also were killed.
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Jackson, a 10-year-veteran of the force, posted his message to Facebook on July 8, just three days after Alton Sterling was killed by an officer in the city.
That shooting marked the beginning of a tense week in the country's fraught history of race relations.
Another black man, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by police the next day in Minnesota, with his girlfriend livestreaming the aftermath on Facebook. Later in Dallas, a black gunman opened fire during a protest against the previous police shootings, killing five officers.
Jackson does not specifically refer to those events, but the posting appears to be a reaction to them.
"I'm tired physically and emotionally. 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 takes too much energy but I definitely won't be looking at you the same ... In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me at threat," he wrote.
In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me at threat.- Slain Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson
"Finally I personally want to send prayers out to everyone directly affected by this tragedy. These are trying times. Please don't let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I'm working in 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."
The post, which has since been removed from Jackson's page, ended with two emojis: a police officer and peace sign.
Kedrick Pitts, the 24-year-old younger half brother of Jackson, said they were close.
"With him it was God, family and the police force," Pitts said outside his mother's house in Baton Rouge, where family gathered Sunday. "He went above and beyond ... He was a protector."
He said his brother had been on the force for 10 years, having joined in 2006 and risen to the rank of corporal. He said Jackson leaves behind a wife and four-month-old son Mason.
In the rural Livingston Parish, family of Jackson's wife was also mourning their loss.
Lonnie Jordan, Jackson's father-in-law, spoke to reporters on the front lawn of Jackson's house. He described his son-in-law as a "gentle giant" — tall and stout and formidable looking, but with a peaceful disposition, saying he was "always about peace."
Jordan said his son-in-law had been working long hours since the death of Sterling and the resulting protests. But Jordan said if the work was a strain, Jackson didn't let it show.
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Garafola described as 'family man'
There were several cars parked in front of Garafola's house at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Baton Rouge suburb of Denham Springs. East Baton Rouge sheriff's deputies said the family needed its privacy and was not speaking with any more media after having done an interview with a local newspaper.
A neighbour, Rhonda Smith, a 39-year-old marketing representative, said Garafola was a family man.
"You never saw him without at least one of his kids," she said Sunday evening.
She said he had four children — a seven-year-old girl, a 12-year-old son, a 15-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son.
She said she and the Garafolas were the first to build homes in 2007 in the subdivision.
"He was low key, happy," she said. "He never raised his voice, never hollered at anyone. The epitome of a peace officer."
She said Garafola mowed people's lawns just to be a good neighbour and built a back yard fence for her. She said he also "kept an eye on the neighbourhood."
"Very surreal. Still can't wrap my brain around it. My heart goes out to those kids and Tonja [his wife]," she said.
Gerald and his wife, Dechia, celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary just two weeks ago, according to local WWL-TV.
The couple had a three-year-old daughter together, and Gerald had adopted his wife's older daughter from a previous marriage.
Gerald was a former marine and Blackhawk crew chief in the army. He became a Baton Rouge police officer four months ago, the station reports, and started doing solo patrols less than two weeks ago.
"He's a good family man, good cop, loving husband," family friend Skye Turner said.
with files from Reuters