3 arrested in plot to harm Baton Rouge officers during protests
Police arrested three people after a pawn shop robbery Saturday night and uncovered a plot to use the guns to shoot police during weekend protests, according to Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie.
Police said the four suspects included a 13-year-old. One suspect remains at large, Dabadie said during a press conference Tuesday.
Six guns have been recovered, and two others remain missing.
One of the men arrested at the pawn shop told responding officers that the weapons were being taken so they could be used to harm officers during during demonstrations opposing police-involved shootings. Alton Sterling, a black man, was shot to death July 5 by two white policemen outside a Baton Rouge convenience store. The next day, Philando Castile was killed by St. Anthony police officers during a Minnesota traffic stop.
"We took this as a very viable threat," Dabadie said. "We have received questions as to why we used such a show of force during weekend protests, this is why."
East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux said the discovered plot, coupled with the killing of five police officers in Dallas, led the department to highly equip its personnel for the protests.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he remains pleased with the police response to protests in which nearly 200 people were arrested.
The Democratic governor, who comes from a family of sheriffs, characterized the response as “moderate.”
Critics have questioned the riot gear and weaponry carried by police officers, saying it’s out of line with keeping protests from becoming violent. But Edwards pushed back against such suggestions Tuesday.
He referenced the shootings in Dallas and said police officers need to be able to defend themselves.
The governor said a Baton Rouge police officer had teeth knocked out with a rock thrown by protesters. He said that if officers don’t use riot gear, “you have no defense against that sort of thing.”
Meanwhile, a state representative from Baton Rouge says black community leaders want Louisiana’s attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to handle any state investigation into Sterling’s shooting death.
Rep. Ted James says the attorney general’s office doesn’t have the level of expertise to do the investigation. He says the appointment of an outside prosecutor would depoliticize the work.
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into Sterling's death. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore has recused himself, leaving Attorney General Jeff Landry to handle any state criminal investigation.