WASHINGTON — President Obama emerged in the White House briefing room today to note that he said five days ago at the Dallas police officers’ memorial service that the shooter there “would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other.”
“Nor will today’s killer,” he said. “It remains up to us to make sure that they fail.”
Six officers were shot this morning in Baton Rouge, La., where things have been tense since police shot Alton Sterling during an arrest earlier this month.
Three officers were killed and three wounded. Obama noted that one of the wounded was still in critical condition.
“As of right now, we don’t know the motive of the killer. We don’t know whether the killer set out to target police officers, or whether he gunned them down as they responded to a call,” Obama said. “Regardless of motive, the death of these three brave officers underscores the danger that police across the country confront every single day. And we as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.”
“Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.”
Obama said he spoke with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, as well as Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The FBI was already on scene and requesting tips at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told CNN that one of the slain officers was African-American, suggesting that cops were being targeted but not by race.
“This has happened far too often. And I’ve spent a lot of time with law enforcement this past week. I’m surrounded by the best of the best every single day. And I know whenever this happens, wherever this happens, you feel it. Your families feel it. But what I want you to know today is the respect and the gratitude of the American people for everything that you do for us,” Obama said.
“…We have our divisions, and they are not new. Around-the-clock news cycles and social media sometimes amplify these divisions, and I know we’re about to enter a couple of weeks of conventions where our political rhetoric tends to be more overheated than usual.”
The president called on everyone, “regardless of race or political party or profession,” to “right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.”
“We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts — all of us,” Obama said. “…My fellow Americans, only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided.”
“Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children,” he continued. “That’s who we are, and that’s who we always have the capacity to be. And that’s the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning.”
Obama did not take questions from the media.
Sterling’s aunt gave an emotional statement telling those who want to come kill police officers to go away and “stop the bloodshed.”
“At the end of the day, when these people call these families, their daddies and their mommas ain’t coming home no more,” Veda Washington-Abusaleh cried. “I know how they feel because I got the same phone call.”