The man who shot and killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday was a former Marine who was seeking out police for an ambush attack, officials say.
Police tell NPR the attacker — who died in a shootout with police — was Gavin Eugene Long, of Kansas City, Missouri.
In a press conference Monday, law enforcement officials said the gunman behaved “tactically” and appeared to intentionally target law enforcement officers. Long appeared to have been in Baton Rouge, La., for several days before the attack, they said.
Long, who turned 29 on the day of the attack, had claimed to be a member of a sovereign citizen movement. Online, accounts that appear to belong to Long denounced police violence against African-Americans, hawked self-published books on health and spirituality and promoted the virtues of life as an “alpha male.”
Long served in the Marine Corps for five years and was a data network specialist, his military record shows. In 2008, he was made a sergeant and deployed to Iraq.
Last year, Long filed documents in Missouri to change his name to “Cosmo Ausar Setepenra” — and declare himself a member of the “United Washitaw De Dugdahmoundya Mu’Ur Nation.”
The Washitaw claims its members are “sovereign citizens” not governed by state or federal law — or subject to state or federal taxes. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that the pseudo-legal theories underlying the nation’s claims are part of “an ideology birthed by hard-line American white supremacists in the 1970s and 1980s.”
But the Washitaw Nation is made up of black people who claim to be descended from an indigenous black population of North America.
“Mainstream scholars dismiss the Washitaw’s claims as pure fantasy, and the federal government and courts have ruled its tribal identity to be a fiction,” The New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote earlier this year.
Online, Long appeared to present himself under his “Cosmo Setepenra” name. He sold self-published books focusing on physical and spiritual self-improvement.
On websites advertising “Cosmo Setepenra,” he described himself as “a nutritionist, life coach, dietitian, personal trainer, author and spiritual advisor,” citing his military experience as one of his qualifications. He also said he lost 80 pounds in his teens, and spent two years in “the highly treasured and revered mountainous regions of Africa” studying with “native spiritual practitioners.”
For the past few months, Long also ran a podcast, “Convos with Cosmo,” about “waging war against Beta-Males, Complainers-&-Blamers, Purposeless and [P****] Whipped Men. And anything else that would keep a Man from walking in his complete and full masculinity.”
One episode was dedicated to a controversial tweet by Ayesha Curry, the wife of NBA star Steph Curry. Steph Curry was responsible for his wife’s actions, “Cosmo” said, because “The Man is the leader, he has to take responsibility for keeping his woman in check at all times. Dont get a woman if you cant keep her in check.”
On Twitter, an account that appeared to belong to Long periodically raised concerns about police treatment of black Americans. In February “Cosmo” tweeted video of a traffic stop in Los Angeles. “Getting harassed again,” he says in the video.
Earlier this month, he tweeted a link to coverage of police shootings in Minnesota, saying, “Read this.”
He apparently traveled to Dallas in the days following the shooting death of five police officers in that city. He posted video of him apparently trying to give away his books.
Long said in a video that he had decided to go to Dallas on “book tour” before the police shooting occurred. In the video, he said the world was run by “devils” and protests were insufficient — in fact, he said he never attends protests or rallies and finds them “embarrassing.”
“The serious ones, the real ones, the alpha ones, we know what it’s going to take,” he said. “It’s only fighting back or money — that’s all they care about.”
And last week he tweeted, “Violence is not THE answer (its a answer), but at what point do you stand up so that your people dont become the Native Americans…EXTINCT?”
In what appeared to be Long’s last tweet, from the day of the shooting, he wrote, “Just [because] you wake up every morning doesn’t mean that you’re living. And just [because] you shed your physical body doesn’t mean that you’re dead.”
As Cosmo Setepenra, Long appeared as a guest on an online radio show hosted by Lance Scurvin. On July 8, Scurvin posted a message on his Facebook page he said came from “Cosmo.” It read in part:
“I just want everyone to know that if anything may happen to me or with me, I am NOT affiliated with anybody, any group, nationality, association, religion, corporation, business, etc. … I Just want to make this crystal clear. I have no affiliations to no one, I think my own thoughts and make my own decisions. I am influenced & directed internally NOT externally. …
“… knowing my role as a Man, my duties as a Man, and that I determine my destiny and no one else, I am taking this Earth Plane existence day by day and even hour by hour because anything is possible from here on out.”
Felix Nosa Omoruyi, also known as “Feva,” says he and Long had been friends since childhood. He says Long was never a member of an organized religion, but since returning from the military, he had been passionate about “African spirituality.”
Omoruyi also says Long was “outraged” by the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota – but that Omoruyi couldn’t have imagined that anger would turn into violence.
“I know a lot of real gangsters that’re really killers. Gavin, when we were growing up he wasn’t like that,” Omoruyi says. “He was one of the people out of all my people that had his head on straight … He was more of a square, of a nerd.”