Hours before he allegedly opened fire on Baton Rouge cops, Gavin Long posted an ominous message on Twitter.
“Just bc you wake up every morning doesn’t mean that you’re living,” he apparently wrote under what seems to be a pseudonym, Cosmo Setepenra. “And just bc you shed your physical body doesn’t mean that you’re dead.”
A few days earlier—July 8, just after Micah Johnson assassinated five Dallas police officers and wounded nine others—Setepenra had tweeted a video hailing the bloodshed. “With a brother killing the police you get what I’m saying—it’s justice," he wrote.
Law enforcement officials have identified Long as the man who killed three officers and wounded three more in a shootout in Baton Rouge. The fictitious name of Setepenra, linked to an e-mail address associated with Long, leads to the online trail of a violent and very strange mind. Setepenra is a man who boasted about his triumph over obesity and service in the U.S. military while claiming the powers of a master adviser and guru; a man who claim that he was being stalked by the U.S. government; a man who pushed for “Africans” to fight back against their oppressors; a man who claimed to be both a member of the Nation of Islam and unaffiliated with any group; a man who shouted on Twitter, “YES TO POLYGAMY!”
Long published three books on Amazon.com under his apparent pseudonym. The online bio described him as a “nutritionist, life coach, dietitian, personal trainer, author and spiritual advisor.”
“At the age of sixteen, after self-educating himself about fitness, nutrition, and diet, Cosmo lost over eighty pounds in six months,” the bio read. "He then joined the United States Marine Corps and earned the rank of sergeant (E-5) in less than three years as one of the Corps most physically fit Marines.”
Setepenra’s Amazon.com biography said he served five years as a Marine, spending two of those in Japan and completing a tour of duty in Iraq. Setepenra also claimed to have been stationed in San Diego, where “Cosmo became a highly esteemed and sought after nutritionist and personal trainer.”
Military service records for Gavin Long obtained by The Daily Beast show Long also achieved the rank of E-5. Records show Long served in Japan and did a tour of duty in Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009. Like Setepenra, Long was stationed in San Diego, at Camp Pendleton, where he completed infantry training. In other words, he knew how to shoot.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Baton Rouge shooting took place on Long’s 29th birthday.
Setepenra’s biography says he completed an associate’s degree at Central Texas College but dropped out of Clark Atlanta University because of a “spiritual revelation that resulted in him dropping out of college, selling his two cars, giving away all of his material possessions, packing two suitcases, and journeying to Africa—his ancestral homeland.”
(Long, on the other hand, was briefly a student of the University of Alabama.)
In a video posted to his YouTube channel after the Dallas shooting of five police officers, Setepenra described black people’s reluctance to fight back as “a mental disease.” Long claimed to be in Dallas just days after the attack. (He also claimed to be on a “book tour.” His books, however, appear to be self-published, though they were endorsed by niche celebrities like Elliott Hulse, a popular fitness trainer and YouTube star.)
Setepenra claimed to have heard an ancient African tale about men going off to battle. “The woman would tell the man, if you come here defeated, I’m killing you,” he said.
“Independence Day is really based on... George Washington and the Americans fighting against their oppressor,” Setepenra said in the video. “And we celebrate that.
“But when an African fights back, that’s wrong,” he added. “So we gotta start questioning our mindset.”
He seems to be distancing himself from Americans as he speaks.
“You’re saying one person is right, but then you’re saying another person is wrong for doing the exact fucking thing,” Setepenra said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Victims have “been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed,” he continued. Protesting, on the other hand, never worked.
“You’ve gotta fight back. That’s the only way a bully knows to quit,” he said.
He described the world as “run by devils.”
“Bitchassness, that’s the same as being a coward,” Setepenra cautioned in another video, sitting back with his hands folded in another video.
In yet another video posted shortly before days before the Baton Rouge attack, Setepenra disavowed affiliations with any organizations or movements, seemingly in response to attempts to link Dallas police murderer Micah Johnson to various fringe groups.
“Yeah, I was also a Nation of Islam member, I’m not affiliated with them,” he said. “They try to put you with ISIS or some other terrorist group. No. I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice.
“Nothing else. Nothing more, nothing less,” he added.
That may be because Long declared himself to be a sovereign citizen in a filing with Jackson County, Missouri, the Kansas City Star reports. Jackson said he was with the United Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah Mu’ur Nation, Mid-West Washita Tribes. Most sovereign citizen groups believe they are exempt from the federal government's laws, but these groups believe they are also above state and local laws.
The paranoia over being linked also showed in a July 9 letter sent to The LanceScurv Show (the podcast of the self-proclaimed “boldest man on the net”).
“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,” Setepenra said. “Yes I am apart of many, groups, businesses, and even a different nationality (Sovereign) but I am not affiliated. I Just want to make this crystal clear.”
“Also If you guys have time, I have videos on my youtube channels that you guys can save to your computer just in case anything happens,” Setepenra continued. “Because of course the mainstream news loves to assassinate the righteous Mans character.”
On LinkedIn, Setepenra listed being self-aware as his top skill.
But throughout his online posts, it’s a kind a kind of paranoia that comes through clearest.
In a November 2015 Facebook post attributed to Setepenra, but posted by Alim El-Bey, he wrote about “mandatory” vaccinations and the need to “apprehend those who we think may have the disease.” This was in response to articles about the military misplacing bubonic plague samples.
And in his note to the LanceSurv Show, Setepenra addresses to his fellow “Targeted Individuals”—an expression for those who believe the government is stalking them. “You want to stop attempting to confide in ANYONE! You have to assume that everyone is either in on your harassment already, or can be turned against you (bribed or intimidated) to get in on your harassment, which 95% of the population is susceptible too. This includes EVERYONE, friends &family.”
—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman, Nancy A. Youssef, and M.L. Nestel