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Biden Says Baton Rouge Officers' Deaths Had A Wide Impact


Now to a shocking attack here in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden was in Baton Rouge last night, speaking at a community memorial service for the three Louisiana law enforcement officers gunned down last week. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: This vigil was a final moment of reflection after the funerals of police officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson and sheriff's deputy Brad Garafola. The three were killed last week in what authorities say was an ambush. Vice President Joe Biden says it was an attack on society.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: When that assassin's bullet targeted our heroes - and he was an assassin - he not only targeted them. He targeted this city. He targeted this country. And it touched the soul of the entire nation.

ELLIOTT: An investigation continues into what led a gunman from Kansas City to kill the Baton Rouge officers. He wounded three others before he was killed. One of them, deputy Nicholas Tullier, remains hospitalized in critical condition. Biden rejects the notion that Long was retaliating for the police killing of a local black man, Alton Sterling. It set off protests in Baton Rouge, much like demonstrations around the country over the police treatment of African-Americans. Biden is calling for a renewed investment in community policing to help close the distance between neighborhoods and law enforcement. Baton Rouge is still reeling from the events this month. The tension was pronounced at a meeting of the Metro Council this week, the first since the killings.

QUEEN NEFERTITI: We're getting tired. We're getting tired. We're getting tired. We're getting tired of asking for justice.

ELLIOTT: This young black woman, who goes by the name Queen Nefertiti, wore a sign around her neck that read I am Alton Sterling. She was frustrated when the council refused to consider requiring Baton Rouge police officers to live where they work. The vote split along racial lines. Afterward, community activist Gary Chambers said the council should have at least looked at it.

GARY CHAMBERS: This is why we shout black lives matter, because when we come the right way, through democracy, to change laws, they deny us.

ELLIOTT: The three officers who were killed lived in a neighboring community. Councilman Buddy Amoroso says now's not the time to consider the residency requirement.

BUDDY AMOROSO: We're a hurting community. We're a fractured community. But we're not a broken community. I think we need time to heal. We need time for perspective.

ELLIOTT: At the memorial, slain officer Montrell Jackson's widow, Trenisha, made an impassioned plea for racial healing.


TRENISHA JACKSON: We all know Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream. Well, Corporal Montrell Jackson had a dream as well. His dream was for Baton Rouge, the city that he loved, to get better. I, too, have a dream that our nation will get better and unite as one.

ELLIOTT: She had the audience rise, raise their right hands and vow not to let hate reside in their hearts. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Debbie Elliott
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
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