BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Police say they have arrested three suspects and are seeking a possible fourth accused of stealing several handguns as part of an alleged plot to harm police officers in the Baton Rouge area.
Baton Rouge police Chief Carl Dabadie said in a press conference Tuesday that authorities discovered the plot while responding to a burglary at a pawn shop.
They arrested one suspect on the scene and then tracked down two others. Authorities called on the fourth suspect to turn himself in.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson called it a "substantial credible threat" to police.
The arrests come after the deadly police shooting of a black man by two white police officers in the city and the killing of five police officers in Dallas last week.
Black and white religious and community leaders from a broad spectrum of churches and groups have met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to share emotions, tragic stories and map out a strategy for making the city more equitable and racially united.
The gathering was convened by Together Baton Rouge, a group of churches and organizations pushing to turn the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling into a moment of change and action for the city.
The group also announced an effort to create teams to help organize protests, look into the investigation and foster police reform.
The Rev. Lee Wesley said that the group's goal was not to "go back to business as usual" but to effect change. He said Baton Rouge has a "faulty foundation" that needs to be fixed by making the city more unified across racial lines.
Those attending the gathering shouted out in response: "Change the foundation! Change the foundation!"
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 Alton 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 the death of Sterling, a black man killed by white police officers. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore has recused himself, leaving Attorney General Jeff Landry to handle any state criminal investigation.
James and black businessman Cleve Dunn spoke Tuesday to local Republican leaders.
Dunn says African-American leaders also are calling on police to release the 911 call and surveillance video from the convenience store where Sterling was killed.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says he remains pleased with the police response to protests of the shooting death of Alton Sterling by police officers. The weekend protests led to nearly 200 arrests and a show of force from law enforcement.
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 of police officers during a protest in Dallas on Thursday and said police officers need to be able to defend themselves.
The governor says 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."
Sterling, a black man, was shot and killed by white officers last week.
A prominent Black Lives Matter activist arrested in Louisiana while protesting the killing of a black man during a struggle with white police officers says he is returning to Baltimore.
DeRay Mckesson said on his Twitter account Tuesday that a judge had granted his request to leave Louisiana and he would be back in Baltimore later in the day.
Tensions have been rising since last week's killing of Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge.
The 31-year-old Mckesson was arrested Saturday on a charge of obstructing a highway.
A police affidavit of probable cause says Mckesson "intentionally" placed himself in the road after protesters were repeatedly warned by loudspeaker to remain on private property or the curb.
McKesson was released from jail on Sunday.
Baton Rouge's top prosecutor is weighing whether to pursue charges against nearly 200 demonstrators arrested in weekend protests over the killings of young black men as criticism mounts by protesters over the tactics officers used on the crowds.
Police made nearly 200 arrests in Louisiana's capital city during weekend protests, which are growing across the country as people express outrage over deaths at the hands of police.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III says any decisions on charges against the protesters will be made on a case-by-case basis.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana said Monday that Baton Rouge police "used violent, militarized tactics on groups of people who have gathered peacefully in protest of Alton Sterling's killing."