Three law enforcement officers were fatally shot and at least three others wounded on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said, less than two weeks after a black man was killed by the police here, sparking nightly protests.
Police said initially that they were looking for other possible suspects, but the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Col. Michael Edmonson, said at a news conference that person who shot and killed the officers had been shot and killed at the scene.
“There is not at active shooter scenario in Baton Rouge,” said Colonel Edmonson, whose agency was taking the lead on the investigation, assisted by local and federal law enforcement officials.
Speaking to reporters in Baton Rouge, Corporal McKneely said officers responding to the shooting were checking the area, a major thoroughfare dotted with gas stations and large discount stores, for possible explosives. “We’re going to check the scene thoroughly to protect ourselves,” he said.
Sunday’s shooting is the latest episode in a month of violence and extraordinary racial tension in the country, and took place after Baton Rouge officers on July 5 fatally shot Alton B. Sterling, a black man who was selling CDs outside a convenience store. The night after Mr. Sterling was killed, a black man was killed by the police during a traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb, and then the next night, five police officers were killed by a gunman in Dallas who said he wanted to kill police officers, particularly white officers.
Details remained sketchy on Sunday afternoon, and it was unclear whether the attack had been planned or happened during another crime. There were varying reports about the number of officers wounded, with one putting the number at seven.
The shooting was met here with disbelief. “It’s just crazy; we should be worried about what we’re going to leave our kids 20, 30 years from now,” said Bryce Butler, 27, a cook at the Rum House restaurant, which is near the shooting scene. “I think no one should be victimized, cops or anyone.”
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Dan Williams, 46, an electrician. “Both incidents were sad,” he said, referring to Mr. Sterling’s death and Sunday’s shooting. He anticipates more violence.
Carol D. Powell Lexing, a lawyer for the Sterling family, said in an interview that the family did not condone the shooting of officers and that protesting police misconduct was “not all-out war on the entire Police Department.”
“No one condones violence on anyone, and we certainly don’t condone the shootings that have gone forth in Dallas and now in Baton Rouge,” she said. “It saddens our heart that we are even back to having this conversation again, having a repeat, having some type of copycat out there. We ask that there be no more copycats.”
The police in Baton Rouge had in recent days announced that they wereinvestigating a plot by four people to shoot at police officers, and they cited the threat to explain the heavy police presence at protests.
The police said a 17-year-old was arrested after running from a burglary of the Cash American Pawn Shop in Baton Rouge. He and three others, including a 12-year-old arrested on Friday, were believed to have broken into the pawnshop through the roof. It was unclear whether the burglary was in any way connected to Sunday’s shooting.
The police chief, Carl Dabadie Jr., told reporters at the time that the 17-year-old had told the police “that the reason the burglary was being done was to harm police officers.”
The explanation, however, was met with skepticism on social media sites, where many people believed the report was concocted by the police to justify their militarized response to the protest.
“That was bull, it was a scare tactic to calm things down,” Arthur Reed, of Stop the Killing, the group that first released the video of Mr. Sterling’s shooting, said on Sunday. “And it worked. I ain’t going out there if people are going to be out there trying to kill police.”
The intense protests after Mr. Sterling’s shooting were beginning to lose steam. Sima Atri, a social justice lawyer who represented some of the protesters who were arrested last weekend, said earlier in the week that many protesters were too afraid to hit the streets after the authorities’ heavy-handed approach last weekend, which included nearly 200 arrests. (Nearly 100 charges were dropped Friday.)
A protest on Saturday afternoon had less than a dozen people (all of them white), huddled on the side of the road under a tent to escape the blazing sun, flashing signs at passing cars. Once the sun went down, the crowd grew to about 125, most of them white, Mr. Reed said. Corporal McKneely said it was unclear if the shooting on Sunday was connected to the protests. “We are not sure of anything right now,” he said.