Baton Rouge gunman urged black Americans to ‘fight back’

Police scour Iraq veteran’s social media and video posts for clues of motive behind attack

The former US marine sergeant who shot dead three police officers and wounded three others in Louisiana on Sunday was actively targeting the officers, police have said.

Gavin Long (29) of Kansas City, Missouri "definitely ambushed the officers" in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana State Police public affairs commander JB Slaton said.

Police have been combing Long's active life on social media to find out why the Iraq war veteran perpetrated the attack in Baton Rouge, a city still reeling from the fatal police shooting of black man Alton Sterling two weeks ago.

Long, who was killed by police during his attack on Sunday, last year adopted the name Cosmos Ausar Setepenra, claiming that he was "seeking to correct" his name because he was a member of the Washitaw Moorish Nation, a US separatist group.


He maintained a website called “Convos with Cosmo” and described himself as a “freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual adviser”.

The Missouri man, who was black, criticised protests held in the wake of police shootings of black men in videos he posted on social media while he travelled to Dallas after five police officers were shot dead in the Texas city on July 7th and then on to Baton Rouge.

In one video, he said that peaceful protests against police were futile and queried why white American patriots such as George Washington were celebrated for rebelling against oppressors while black Americans were not. He protested against injustices against blacks, suggesting at one point: "You gotta fight back."

In a social media message posted just hours before his rampage on Sunday, Long said: “Just [because] you was 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.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent