Another blow for Baton Rouge, nation

Published 10:15 am Monday, July 18, 2016

Minneapolis Star Tribune

A nation desperately in need of healing instead has more lives to grieve after a shooting in Baton Rouge, La., left three law enforcement officers dead and three wounded. Officials identified the shooter as an African-American Iraq war veteran from Kansas City, Mo.

Other details were sketchy late Sunday, but this much was certain: 12 people have died in high-profile shootings in the U.S. in the past two weeks, including eight law enforcement officers, and racial tensions are worsening.

Email newsletter signup

The first of the 12 deaths came on July 5 when Baton Rouge police shot Alton Sterling, a black man who was selling CDs outside a convenience store. Just a day later, Philando Castile, a black school cafeteria worker in St. Paul, was killed by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

The fear that police would be targeted in revenge attacks became a heartbreaking reality on July 7, when five officers were killed by a heavily armed sniper in Dallas at a march held to protest the deaths of Sterling and Castile.

Although the motive for Sunday’s shooting remained unclear as public officials in Louisiana and Washington called for peace and unity, their strained voices reflected the unease that grips America in the divided, deadly summer of 2016.

Is this the new normal for a country awash in guns and plagued by racial inequality? African-Americans in too many communities distrust the police who are hired to protect them. Police in too many cities come to work each day fearing that any citizen they encounter may be armed and dangerous, regardless of the color of their skin.

For now, the healthy national debate over the factors that have created those realities — and what can be done about them — is being drowned out by the sound of gunshots and the tears of peace-loving, law-abiding Americans who simply want the shooting to stop.