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Still in shock over the death of his nephew, Montrell Jackson, one of three Baton Rouge police officers gunned down Sunday amid growing outrage over the killings of black men by law enforcement, Charles Cavalier says the 32-year-old cop and father to a baby boy will always be remembered as someone who would have done anything for his family and for his city.
"I want everyone to know that Montrell loved his job. He loved Baton Rouge. He’s been here all his life, and anything he could’ve done, he would’ve done," Cavalier told NBC News. "He died serving Baton Rouge."
Jackson was shot and killed alongside two fellow officers Sunday about a half-mile from Baton Rouge police headquarters on Airline Highway — the latest turn of violence in a spate of bloodshed that’s left several police officers and civilians dead.
Earlier this month, protests erupted over the killings of two black men at the hands of police: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on July 5, and Philando Castile a day later in Falcon Heights, Minn. The same week, a lone gunman ambushed police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, killing five and wounding several others.
As both an African-American and a police officer, Jackson said in a recent Facebook post that he felt “physically and emotionally” exhausted by the escalating tensions between the two groups that played such central roles in his identity.
"I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me," he wrote. "In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat. I've experienced so much in my short life and these last 3 days have tested me to the core. When people you know begin to question your integrity you realize they don't really know you at all. Look at my actions they speak LOUD and CLEAR.”
For Cavalier, the words of his nephew ring especially true.
“It’s like predestination,” said Cavalier, who remembers calling Jackson shortly after he saw the post. “I think he’s going to be remembered as someone who did everything he could for his city.”
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Jackson was a 10-year veteran of the force. Cavalier said he was the one who wrote a recommendation for his nephew when he decided to leave Louisiana State University for the police academy.
"He was a real good officer," Cavalier said. “We have good and bad in every walk of life, but he was not a bad officer.”
"I won’t ever fully get over it," he continued. "Because a part of me died when he died."
Asked what Jackson would say if he were here, Cavalier said his nephew would want to see unity.
"[I] just hope we can become one, united Baton Rouge," said Cavalier. "All lives matter."