Just before 9am on Sunday, cops in Baton Rouge responded to reports of shots fired at at a shopping center about a mile away from police headquarters. When the officers arrived on the scene, Gavin Eugene Long turned his assault rifle on them, killing three and wounding three others. Long was eventually killed in a shootout with police. It was his 29th birthday.
There was some initial confusion about whether multiple shooters were involved in Sunday's attack, but it now seems Long acted alone. While authorities have not formally identified him as the gunman, unnamed law enforcement officials confirmed his identity to several US news agencies. His motive remains unclear, but here's what we know about him so far:
-He was a US marine who reached the rank of sergeant before he was honorably discharged in 2010 after serving for five years, including two years in Japan and one year in Iraq.
-He lived in Kansas City, Missouri. According to the Kansas City Star, Long got divorced in 2011 after just two years of marriage.
-Long used the online alias "Cosmo Setepenra" and promoted himself as a "freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual advisor." His website, titled "Convos with Cosmo," touts the importance of "Uniting the Entrepreneur and the Alpha Male as One" to create "The ALPHA PRENEUR." He called himself the world's foremost authority on "Alphapreneurism."
-Through his books, YouTube videos, podcasts and blog posts, Long talked about racial injustice, oppression, masculinity, relationships, lifestyle choices, spirituality, and recent shootings of black men by police officers. Under the website tab "Alpha products," Long advertised his books, including The Cosmo Way: Vol.1 The Detox, "a wealth of esoteric health and nutritional practices that can rev up your metabolism."
-Long says he made the dean's list at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college in Georgia, but dropped out after having a "spiritual revelation." He says he gave away "all of his material possessions" and traveled extensively around Africa, visiting Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Ghana, and Burkina Faso."
'If anything happens to me... Don't affiliate me with nothing... I'm affiliated with the spirit of justice. Nothing more, nothing less.'
-In one YouTube video, recorded in what looks like a bedroom or hotel room rather than his usual studio set-up with the "Convos with Cosmo" logo behind him, Long tells viewers that he was in Dallas for a book tour, and that he had decided to travel to the Texas city before Micah Johnson — a fellow Marine who served in Afghanistan — opened fire on police during a Black Lives Matter protest, killing five and wounding nine. "Before the police shooting occurred, I had already decided to be here," Long said. "The spiritual was telling me it was the right thing to do."
-He also explained why he believed that peaceful protests would never lead to change. "100 percent of revolutions have been victims fighting their bullies, and 100 percent have been successful through fighting back," Long said. "Protesting, it doesn't work and it never will. Bullies don't understand words, he don't understand protest. The serious ones, the alpha ones, we know what it's gonna take. Fighting back: revenue and blood, revenue and blood. Nothing else. You're in a world run by devils."
-He also posted a video that appeared to foreshadow the shooting in Baton Rouge. In the clip, he stressed that he planned to act alone. "If anything happens to me... Don't affiliate me with nothing," he says. "I'm not affiliated with the Nation of Islam... They try and put you with ISIS or some other terrorist group. I'm affiliated with the spirit of justice. Nothing more, nothing less. I made my own thoughts. I made my own decisions. I'm the one that's gotta listen to the judgement, and my heart is pure."
-He also claimed to be a "TI" — short for targeted individual — an apparent reference to a conspiracy theory that involves something called "gang stalking." As detailed last month by the New York Times, a growing number of people believe they are "victims of a sprawling conspiracy to harass thousands of everyday Americans with mind-control weapons and armies of so-called gang stalkers." Long encouraged others to wear body cameras to help monitor for targeted surveillance.
-Long reportedly declared himself a "sovereign citizen," a reference to a movement that the FBI has deemed a "growing domestic threat." The South Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups in the US, said sovereign citizens "hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs." Sovereign citizens believe they should get to choose which laws to obey and which to ignore. The group was initially comprised of white supremacists and anti-Semites, the SPLC writes, but its demographic has increasingly shifted to include black Americans.
Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen