The gunman who shot dead three police officers and wounded another three in Baton Rouge has been revealed as an egotistical former Marine who later became a lifestyle guru and used the Internet to urge black people to ‘fight back through bloodshed.’
Gavin Eugene Long, 29, of Kansas City, Missouri, to Louisiana, opened fire on officers after police were called to a gas station on Airline Highway at around 8.30am on Sunday–his 29th birthday.
Long did not lure the officers to their deaths, as previous reports stated, but ambushed them after a member of the public called 911, Louisiana State Police’s Col. Mike Edmonson said.
However, authorities believe Long had been in Baton Rouge for six days and knew that cops frequented the gas station where the shooting occurred, police sources told Fox News.
Officers had responded to the scene to reports of a masked man, dressed all in black and wielding an AR-15 type assault rifle.
After shooting dead Montrell Jackson, 32, Matthew Gerald, 41, and Brad Garafola, 45; and wounding Nicholas Tullier, 41, Bruce Simmons, 51, and a third unidentified officer, 41, Long was pursued to the nearby B-Quik convenience store, where he was shot dead.
Long’s body was found next door, outside of a fitness center, authorities said.
Since then, it has emerged that the shooter was a former Marine, who was honorably discharged in 2010 after achieving the rank of sergeant.
Long, who claimed to have once been a member of the Nation of Islam, also declared himself a ‘sovereign citizen’–part of a movement that believes the government and police hold no authority over them.
In a 2011 bulletin, the FBI said it ‘considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement’ and called the group a ‘growing domestic threat to law enforcement.’
After leaving the Marines, Long became a life coach and self-styled ‘Alpha-preneur’ with a massive online presence. On his website, he described himself as a ‘freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual advisor.’
Using the pseudonym ‘Cosmo Setepenra,’ a delusional Long used YouTube, Instagram and podcasts to share his warped manifesto with the world.
He was angered by the shooting of black men by police officers and shared a gruesome picture of a black man shooting a police officer in his squad car on Twitter on July 7–the same day Army veteran Micah Johnson killed five police officers amid a Black Lives Matter protest.
In recent YouTube videos, he ranted about ‘crackers’–a derogatory term for white people–and spoke about Alton Sterling’s death. ‘If I would have been there with Alton — clap,’ Long said in a video posted last Thursday, the Daily Caller reports.
Long also appears to have been in Dallas a short time after the shootings there and appears to have uploaded a video from the Texas city advocating violent protests by African Americans.
In the footage, shot before he traveled to Baton Rouge, Long said: ‘One hundred per cent of revolutions, victims fighting their oppressors, victims fighting their bullies, 100 per cent have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed.
‘Zero have been successful by simply protesting. It has never worked and it never will. You’ve gotta fight back, that’s the only way a bully knows to quit. He doesn’t understand words.
‘If y’all wanna keep protesting but for the real ones, the serious ones, the alpha ones–we know what it’s going to take. It’s only fighting back or money. That’s all they care about. Revenue and blood. Nothing else.
‘Don’t even think about it. That’s why I don’t go to protests, because I know I speak well, I’m articulate, I can motivate, I can inspire, and those are the ones they arrest. So I know they’d try to arrest me and I know I would die right there because you’re not going to kidnap me.
‘That’s what (rebel slave) Nat Turner did. That’s what Malcolm (X) did. You’ve got to stand, you’ve got to stand on your rights.
‘Men, this is all for you. I don’t wanna see women at rallies and all that. I feel embarrassed by seeing that. Let me know what one of the elders were telling me in Africa.
‘When men would go out to fight the enemy, the one that would tell her man, if you come back here defeated, I’m killing you. You get what I’m saying. The man knew he couldn’t go home.
‘Either he killed his enemy or he die. Because the kid sees that–damn my daddy came home, he got his ass whooped. He just a b****. I’d rather have this m*********** die, at least this kid knows he stands for something’.
On Twitter, Long shared his twisted views. His last tweet–posted hours before he ambushed police officers in Baton Rouge–said: ‘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.’
In a tweet posted a few days ago, Long wrote that ‘more white people believe in ghost [sic] than believe in racism.’
And in another bizarre recent post, Long claimed Native Americans were extinct. He wrote: ‘Violence is not THE answer (its a answer), but at what point do you stand up so that your people don’t become the Native Americans…EXTINCT?’
Long appears to have also regularly used Twitter to interact with black women and often sent them complimentary messages. But to one woman in June, he insisted he wasn’t ‘thirsty’–a slang term for too eager or desperate–and told her he had been celibate for two years.
On his website, Long claims to have lost 80lbs at the age of 16 after ‘self-educating’ about fitness, before spending five years in the Marines ‘as one of the Corps most physically fit recruits’, completing one tour of Iraq.
According to military records, Long was a Marine from 2005 to 2010 and rose to the rank of sergeant. He served in Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009, and records show he received several medals during his military career, including one for good conduct.
Long, who received an honorable discharge, was listed as a ‘data network specialist’ in the Marines.
While stationed in California, he said he became ‘a highly esteemed and sought after nutritionist and personal trainer’ then attended Central Texas College and Clark Atlanta University before dropping out, selling all of his possessions and completing a trip around Africa, which he describes as his ‘ancestral homeland’.
During the trip, Long claimed to have visited Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Egypt, while on Twitter claiming that he has an ‘Ethiopian Bloodline.’
Long regularly uploaded podcasts under the name Cosmo in which he teaches followers how to become ‘Alpha males’, including advice on ‘checking your women’ and ‘the power of not giving a f***’.
He also spoke with radio host Lance Scurvin, who is based in Florida, and had ranted about the death of Alton Sterling and police claims that the officers’ body cams had fallen off during the attack, saying that police should release the footage of the cameras falling off.
In a separate video, Long revealed his previous involvement with a black power group, saying: ‘I wanted to let y’all know, because if anything happened to me–I’m an alpha male, I stand firm and I stand for mine, till the end, till the last day in this flesh.
‘Don’t affiliate me with nothing. Don’t affiliate me with the black business school. Yeah I was also a Nation of Islam member, I’m not affiliated with it. Don’t affiliate me with The Money Team.
‘I was a Christian, I was in Africa. Don’t try and say he was in Africa, don’t say he was this and that. They try to put you with ISIS or something like that. No, I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice, nothing else. Nothing more, nothing less. Make sure, there are no affiliations.
‘I thought my own thoughts, I made my own decisions, I’m the one who gotta listen to the judgement. And my heart is pure.’
From posts on several conspiracy theory websites, it also appears he believed that he was a victim of ‘gang-stalking’, a form of intense surveillance that involves all aspects of a person’s life.
Long told people on message boards that he was a ‘TI’–meaning targeted individual–was was followed around the clock, saying he had taken to wearing cameras in order to expose those responsible.
In 2011, shortly after leaving the military, Long divorced his wife Aireyona Hill, according to Missouri court filings, which said they did not have children.
The three dead police officers have also been identified as Montrell Jackson, 32, a new father and ten-year veteran of the force; Matthew Gerald, 41, a former Marine who joined the Baton Rouge police force a year ago, and Brad Garafola, 45, a married father-of-four who had worked for the sheriff’s office for 24 years.
Nicholas Tullier, 41, an 18-year veteran, is still in hospital in critical condition, while 51-year-old Bruce Simmons, who had been with the department for 23 years, has been treated for non-life-threatening injuries. A third wounded officer, also aged 41, has not been named. All were married with families.
Jackson, 32, who welcomed a son less than a year ago, celebrated his ten-year anniversary with the Baton Rouge Police Department just last month and was once injured helping to save a toddler from a burning building, The Advocate reports.
Meanwhile, Gerald was a married father-of-two who was given the go-ahead to go on solo patrol duty just 12 days ago, the same day Alton Sterling was shot dead, according to Fox News 8 New Orleans.
Gerald had celebrated his fourth wedding anniversary with wife Dechia just two weeks ago according to friends who told WWLTV that the pair had a three-year-old daughter, and that Gerald had adopted Dechia’s older daughter from a previous marriage.
He served in the Marines and as a Blackhawk crew chief, friends said, and had signed up to become a Baton Rouge police officer just four months ago.
Garofola had just finished an extra shift around 8am and was heading to meet his wife Tonja before they went on holiday on Monday when he was shot and killed. He was the father of four children, who ranged in age from seven to 21.
Tonja added: ‘He loved us so much. He was always bragging about his family .He was a great guy. Not just a great law enforcement, he was a great husband and a great father. He didn’t deserve this. He always helped everybody.’
Shortly before he died, Jackson wrote a Facebook post saying he was ‘tired physically and emotionally.’ He said: ‘In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.’
Referencing the shooting death of Alton Sterling, which started protests in the city two weeks ago, he said: ‘I personally want to send out prayers to everyone directly affected by this tragedy. These are trying time. Please don’t let hate infect your heart.
‘This city must and will get better. I’m working these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to send a prayer, I got you.’
Jackson’s friend Darnell Murdock said: ‘He loved his job. It motivated him to go out and change people’s lives. He was on (the force) to help people, to make you have a better day.
‘He was humble, kind and sweet. He wasn’t on there to write tickets. I don’t understand how this could happen to someone like him.’
Speaking after the shooting, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said: ‘It’s unjustified, it’s unjustifiable, the violence, the hatred just has to stop.
‘It’s unspeakable that these men, risking their lives to protect and serve, were taken out in the way they were. They are everyday heroes.
‘I want to reassure everyone that we are doing everything humanly possible so that everyone is protected. Everything will be done to bring the shooter, or shooters if there’s more than one, to justice.
‘An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and it has to stop,’ Governor Edwards added.
‘The people who carried this out do not represent the city of Baton Rouge, or the State of Louisiana or this country.
‘There simply is no place for more violence, it doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t help any injustice perceived or real, it is just another injustice. We are not going to tolerate more hate and violence tearing apart the lives and families of people in Louisiana.’
Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely Jr said the shooting took place outside and possibly inside the B-Quik convenience store on Airline Highway. The suspect’s body was found next door, outside of a fitness center, he said.
According to the Advocate, an officer made a report over a police radio at around 8.45am saying that a ‘lady who came up and said there was a suspect walking with a … and an assault rifle out here behind the store’.
Two minutes later, another officer was heard shouting: ‘Shots fired, officer down, shots fired, officer down!’
Another yelled: ‘Got a city officer down, shots fired! Shots fired on Airline! I don’t know where he’s f***ing shooting from.’
Police officers also described the man as wearing a mask and ‘carrying an A-R’ in the radio messages.
An injured officer is then heard shouting that he has been shot in the left arm, and moments later cops radio in that they have seen a ‘second’ gunman, though these reports later turned out to be false.
Two other ‘persons of interest’ were traced to West Baton Rouge Parish where they were questioned but later released without charge.
Videos taken by a bystander at the scene captured the panic as gunshots rang out, while another showed police officers brandishing rifles as they ran towards the scene.
President Obama subsequently condemned the ‘cowardly and reprehensible’ attack on the police officers while vowing: ‘Justice will be done.’
He blasted the assault on officers ‘who put their lives on the line for ours every day’ and branded the perpetrators ‘cowards who speak for no one.’
In an address to the nation later, he said: ‘Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.’
Urging Americans to unite in the wake of the latest tragedy, he added: ‘We need to temper our words and open our hearts.’
Attorney General Loretta Lynch pledged the full support of the Justice Department as the investigation unfolds. She said agents from the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on the scene.
The Justice Department will make available victim services and federal funding support, and provide investigative assistance to the fullest extent possible, she said.
Lynch added that there is no place in the United States for such appalling violence.
Meanwhile, the mother of Alton Sterling’s son Cameron, Quinyetta McMillion, released a statement condemning violence of any kind.
She said: ‘We are disgusted by the despicable act of violence today that resulted in the shooting deaths of members of the Baton Rouge Law Enforcement.
‘My family is heartbroken for the officers and their families. We are praying for them, city leadership and the Baton Rouge community.
‘As my son Cameron and I have said from the beginning, all we want is peace. We reject violence of any kind directed at members of law enforcement or citizens.
‘My hope is that one day soon we can come together and find solutions to the very important issues facing out nation rather than continuing to hurt one another.’
Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump wrote on his Facebook page: ‘We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today.
‘How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order.’
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton added: ‘Today’s devastating assault on police officers in Baton Rouge is an assault on all of us. There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities.’
‘We must not turn our backs on each other. We must not be indifferent to each other. We must all stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of the police officers who were killed and injured today.’
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said: ‘This is an unspeakable and unjustified attack on all of us at a time when we need unity and healing.
‘Rest assured, every resource available to the State of Louisiana will be used to ensure the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice.
‘For now, I’m asking all Louisianans to join Donna and me in praying for the officers who were involved and their families as the details continue to unfold.’
Vice President Joe Biden on Monday dubbed the shootings a ‘despicable act.’
During a speech at a Boeing factory he is visiting in Australia, he said: ‘It’s a despicable act and it’s an attack on our very way of life at home.’
‘My enduring thanks for every police officer who gets up in the morning and goes out on that night shift. And they look for one thing–they kiss their wife good-bye or their husband and they want to go home and tuck in their kids,’ Biden said.
‘They have a right to do that. They have a right to be able to be protected and we owe them big.’
Police in Baton Rouge were on high alert earlier this week after a gang–including boys aged just 12 and 13–were arrested for stealing handguns as part of a ‘substantial, credible threat’ to harm police officers in Baton Rouge.
Authorities discovered the alleged plot while responding to a burglary at a pawn shop early on June 9. They arrested one suspect–Antonio Thomas, 17–at the scene with a handgun and a BB gun.
During questioning, Thomas said that he and three other suspects stole the firearms and ‘were going to get bullets to shoot police,’ authorities said.
On Tuesday, the chief also confirmed that Thomas told police that ‘the reason the burglary was being done was to harm police officers’.
Malik Bridgewater, 20, was also arrested, as were two boys aged 12 and 13. The two named suspects are black.
The shooting comes 12 days after Sterling was shot dead outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge by two police officers.
Sterling, 37, was armed but his handgun was in his pocket and the footage does not appear to show him reaching for it.
His shooting on July 5–and that of Philando Castile, 32, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, the following day–led to nationwide protests over the treatment of black people by the police.
Last weekend, thousands of people took to the streets in Baton Rouge to condemn the police killings, including hundreds of demonstrators who congregated outside the police station. Authorities arrested about 200 people over a three-day period.
The attack in Baton Rouge comes less than two weeks after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on July 7 was hijacked by Micah Johnson, 25, who used the demonstration as an opportunity to ambush police officers, killing five.
Johnson, 25, told authorities he wanted to kill white people–‘especially white officers’–before he was killed by police using a remote-controlled bomb on a robot.
In the wake of the recent attack, Dallas police chief David Brown, whose department is still in mourning, led the messages of support to police in Baton Rouge following the shooting. The last of the slain Dallas officers was laid to rest on Saturday.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Baton Rouge Police,’ Brown said.
Reverend Al Sharpton added: ‘Praying for the families of the police officers shot in Baton Rouge as we await the full details.
‘This senseless violence really must stop.’
Speaking after Sunday’s shooting, Veda Sterling, Alton Sterling’s aunt, told local television news that ‘things will now get 100 times worse’.
‘We want to offer our condolences to the officers’ families because we know first-hand what they are going through. We just went through this,’ she said.
‘We also want it to be known that this is not in retaliation due to Alton’s death. There was no protesting going on there on where this took place.’