The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Slain Baton Rouge officer Matthew Gerald served in the Marines and the Army before becoming a cop

Matthew Gerald, one of the officers shot and killed in Baton Rouge on Sunday. Gerald served three tours in Iraq, friends said. (Photo courtesy of Ryan D. Cabral)
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Matthew Gerald, a 41-year-old father of two, was one of the three police officers killed in a shooting in Baton Rouge on Sunday morning. Gerald’s father confirmed his son’s death by phone Sunday afternoon.

Before joining the Baton Rouge Police Department last year, Gerald served in both the Marines and the Army. He deployed to Iraq three times, his friends said.

“Matt was the kind of guy that you knew immediately when he entered the room,” said Ryan D. Cabral, who served with Gerald in Iraq. “Whether it was the energy he carried with him or that Cajun accent he had . . . maybe it was the Marine in him.”

When Gerald was excited about something, you would be, too, Cabral said. When he called after Louisiana State University football games, Cabral could tell just by the sound of his voice whether the Tigers had been victorious. Gerald filled his Facebook page with testaments to patriotism: American flags, police badges and photos from his service. He loved to spend his free time with his wife and two daughters, as well as fishing on his bass boat. He once took apart and rebuilt the engine just to make it louder.

Cabral, now a police officer in Texas, described Gerald and his fellow officers as “made to serve the people.”

“We did our time in the military, and when that time was up, you just can’t turn off that want to serve the people,” he said. “Today he did his final service by giving his life to protect the citizens of Baton Rouge and his fellow brothers and sisters in uniform.”

Nick Lambert, who also served with Gerald in the Army, said it is heartbreaking that this is the way his friend died.

“After three tours, not a scratch on him. Comes back home, chooses a job to serve others, and this is what our society does?” Lambert said. “It’s a coward’s way to make a statement.”

Video: What we know about the Baton Rouge shooting (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)