- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2016

The gunman already had shot and killed one police officer and wounded another. But his ambush-style attack in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, wasn’t over.

As officers swarmed to reports of shots fired Sunday morning behind a convenience store, 29-year-old Gavin Long retraced his steps and found East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola trying to help the injured officer. He opened fire, killing Deputy Garafola. Then he turned his attention to the Baton Rouge Police officer and fired two fatal shots at close range.

“My deputy went down fighting. He returned fire until the very end,” Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said Monday, detailing the horrific events that played out Sunday before a member of a SWAT team was able to shoot and kill Long. “I am convinced that if Baton Rouge city SWAT would not have arrived on the scene, we would have had two more deceased deputies and this guy would have been in a position to get in his car and go on, travel and seek other targets.”

Authorities provided new details about the series of events, which were captured on security cameras. They said officers were “intentionally targeted and assassinated” by Long, who displayed a high degree of tactical skill during the attack — skills likely gained through military training during his five years in the Marines.

Calling the shooting a “diabolical attack on the fabric of society,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said the gunman traveled specifically to the area “to do harm to our community” and to target law enforcement.

As they disclosed details about the attack during a news conference Monday afternoon, authorities were struggling to untangle Long’s motivation. Investigators are still working to validate the authenticity of mountains of videos and online writings that Long is suspected of posting online under the pseudonym “Cosmo Setepenra.”

Missouri court records acquired by The Kansas City Star indicate that Long sought to change his name to the pseudonym last year and that he noted in the documents that he was a member of the Washitaw Nation, a “sovereign citizen” movement that believes black people were the original inhabitants of the United States.

Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said authorities are still working to reconstruct Long’s travel from his home in Kansas City, Missouri, and to account for his time in Baton Rouge. They also are interviewing those he came in contact with along the way.

Col. Edmonson declined to comment about Long’s affiliations or claims that he was in Dallas in the days after another lone gunman killed five officers in a targeted attack, saying authorities are still examining all evidence.

Based on the Cosmo Setepenra persona found online, Mark Pitcavage, an Anti-Defamation League expert on extremist groups, said it appears obvious that Long was influenced by the sovereign citizens movement to some degree. Associated groups don’t believe in federal or state laws and may resist paying taxes or obtaining driver’s licenses.

“They are not only anti-government, they are anti-law enforcement,” Mr. Pitcavage said. “They are one of the groups out there that occasionally targets law enforcement.”

According to the Cosmo writings, Long espoused a long list of beliefs that do not fit cleanly into only the sovereign citizens viewpoint, Mr. Pitcavage said, noting Long’s claims to have lived in Africa for several years and having worked as a nutritionist and spiritual adviser.

“The guy was kind of all over the map,” he said. “He may have been a seeker personality, trying all sorts of ideologies and personalities to try to find what fits him.”

Long’s attack comes less than two weeks after another young black man with a military background targeted officers in a sniper-style attack in Dallas. Micah Johnson targeted white officers during what had otherwise been a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration.

During the prior two weeks, there also had been turmoil between police and the black community in Baton Rouge. The July 5 fatal shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling, by Baton Rouge police officers sparked a wave of protests in the city after cellphone videos of his death circulated online. Wary after the July 7 Dallas attacks, police arrested scores of demonstrators at later rallies in Baton Rouge.

With tension between minority communities and police already high since the 2014 police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri, triggered national Black Lives Matter protests, Mr. Pitcavage said recent events could serve as a trigger for already unbalanced individuals attached to extremist ideologies.

“When you have this sort of anger, this can generate all sorts of people to come out from the fringes and the shadows, in part because they have attachments to groups or because they have volatile personalities or psychological pressures,” Mr. Pitcavage said of what motivates violent extremists. “That seems to be what happened in Dallas and seems to be what may have happened in Baton Rouge.”

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