(Reuters) - A burglary of firearms from a Baton Rouge pawn shop has been linked to a threat against police officers in the area, police officials said on Tuesday, just days after a black man's killing by police sparked protests.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie told a news conference that one suspect, who was carrying a firearm and a BB gun, was arrested at the scene of the early Saturday morning burglary and later told police the guns were meant to be used against police.
"We took this as a very viable threat," Dabadie said.
- Celebrity deaths 2018: All the stars we lost too soon 45 Pictures
- 10 finalists for TIME Person of the Year 2018 11 Pictures
Three individuals have been arrested, police said. They did not identify the suspects but said one was 13 years old. Police said they believe a fourth suspect remains on the loose. Six of the eight handguns that were stolen have since been recovered, Dabadie said.
Dozens of demonstrators were arrested over the weekend protesting the police killings of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and 32-year-old Philando Castile in near St. Paul, Minnesota.
The two shootings were the most recent high-profile police killings of black men to fuel protests across the country against police violence over the past two years.
Dabadie said at Tuesday's news conference that he had no evidence that the suspects in the alleged plot mentioned any connection to the shooting of Sterling or the ensuing protests.
When questioned at the news conference, Dabadie only provided the suspect's statement as evidence of the attack plot.
"We cannot take anything for granted anymore," East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said, noting the fatal sniper attack that broke out during an otherwise peaceful protest against police bias in Dallas, Texas. Five officers were killed and several injured in the racially motivated attack.
On Tuesday in Dallas, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Americans to cast off despair over violence, to rise above racial divides and to honor the officers slain by answering their call to service.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Gregorio)