BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday met with the family of a 37-year-old black man killed by Baton Rouge police and promised that the Justice Department will help both police and the community to overcome violent tragedies that have shaken Louisiana’s state capital in the past month.
Baton Rouge is reeling from protests over the July 5 death of Alton Sterling while scuffling with two white police officers and from the July 17 killing of three officers in a shootout with a gunman who authorities say was targeting police.
Lynch spent Friday meeting first with police officers and first responders before sitting down to hear from ministers, judges, activists and business leaders.
After that, she met with the children of Sterling, a CD street vendor. Lynch called her meeting with Sterling’s family members a “condolence call.”
Lynch met with 15-year-old Cameron Sterling, his mother, and three of Alton Sterling’s other four children, said Ryan Julison, spokesman for attorney L. Chris Stewart, who represents Cameron Sterling.
Sterling’s relatives were grateful that Lynch took the time to meet with them. He said Cameron Sterling asked her “to please keep everyone safe, police officers and citizens alike.”
Lynch praised Sterling’s family for calling for “peace and calm” in the wake of his death, which sparked protests in Baton Rouge and across the nation.
The Justice Department is investigating Sterling’s death.
At an afternoon news conference, Lynch said she did not discuss the investigation with Sterling’s family. She also said she would not provide any new details about the investigation and declined to comment about how long it might take to finish.
Lynch also declined to provide any new details about the investigation into Gavin Long, a gunman who authorities say targeted officers. Baton Rouge police officers Matthew Gerald, 41, and Montrell Jackson, 32, and sheriff’s deputy Brad Garafola, 45, were shot and killed by Long, an Army veteran from Kansas City, Missouri, outside a convenience store. Long, 29, also wounded three other officers before a SWAT officer gunned him down.
On Thursday, Lynch and Vice President Joe Biden attended a vigil for the fallen officers. Lynch also met with family members of the fallen officers.
On Friday, Lynch promised that the Department of Justice will assist Baton Rouge’s recovery by helping police and fostering better relations between the community and police.
Lynch said the “eyes of the country and the eyes of the world” are upon Baton Rouge and that the city could become a model on how to deal with violent tragedy for other cities.
The Rev. Lee Wesley, a leader of the Together Baton Rouge community group, said Lynch told community leaders in a private meeting that the Justice Department would assist but not lead discussions about what steps should be taken to heal wounds in Baton Rouge.
“She told us, ‘The bottom line is that you have to do the hard work,’” Wesley said. “That’s the way it should be.”
He added that the police, mayor and community leaders will be holding a series of meetings to come up with a plan on how to improve policing.
Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman contributed material to this report.
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