The military veteran who killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge last summer left behind a suicide note, a prayer from an Islamic holy book and an online trail of his rage against police.
Two days after a white police officer shot and killed a black man in Louisiana’s capital, Gavin Long searched the internet for addresses, phone numbers and other personal information belonging to the two officers involved in the July 5 shooting of Alton Sterling, a prosecutor’s report revealed Friday.
Less than two weeks later, the 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Missouri, traveled to Baton Rouge and ambushed law enforcement officers outside a convenience store and car wash near police headquarters. Armed with a semi-automatic rifle that he legally purchased, Long fatally shot three officers and wounded three others on July 17 before tactical officers killed him, ending a gun battle that lasted nearly 14 minutes that Sunday morning.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said there’s no evidence that Long acted on any information he obtained about the two officers who struggled with Sterling before one of them shot and killed the 37-year-old black man outside a convenience store. Moore also said there’s no indication that Long had any support from anyone in Baton Rouge or attended any of the nightly protests here after Sterling’s death.
“He believes that protests are worthless and that action needs to be taken, not protests,” Moore said.
Police found a suicide note in Long’s rental car. He wrote that people who knew him would be surprised he was “suspected of committing such horrendous acts of violence” but that he believed he had to inflict harm “upon bad cops as well as good cops in hopes that the good cops (which are the majority) will be able to stand together and enact justice and punishment against bad cops.”
He also left a printout in his car from an Islamic holy book that was mostly in Arabic.
“It references asking forgiveness from Allah and includes a prayer passage wherein it states that repeating the prayer and dying on the same day guarantees the person will go to paradise,” the report said.
FBI agents and Louisiana State Police investigators traced Long’s movements in the days leading up to the attack. They learned he arrived in Baton Rouge on July 12 and checked in and out of four different hotel rooms during his brief visit.
“We believe that he was ready to die this day,” Moore said.
Long had posted rambling internet videos calling for violence in response to police treatment of African-Americans, which he said constituted “oppression.” He apparently posted a YouTube video from Dallas on July 10, three days after a sniper killed five officers and wounded nine others there.
“In the video, Long states that ’100 percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppressors . have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed,’” the report said.
Long also posted a YouTube video that showed him driving around Baton Rouge, trying to sell a book he wrote. He approached one person on July 14 and offered to pay him $50 to show him where he could burn compact discs of his book. Long asked that person about the recent protests and said how “brothers need to stand up for their rights,” the report said.
Moore’s report said Long had methamphetamines and alcohol in his system when he was killed. An autopsy found 45 gunshot wounds on his body, and investigators concluded at least 106 shots were fired that morning, mostly by the tactical officers.
Moore said the officers who traded gunfire with Long acted heroically and were legally justified in killing the gunman. Long was wounded and reaching for his rifle when tactical officers fired the barrage of fatal shots, Moore said.
“There was no doubt here regarding their justification,” said Moore, who narrated a video that depicts the shooting in painstaking detail.
Long killed Baton Rouge officers Montrell Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola, 45.
Long wore black clothing and a ski mask and was armed with two rifles and a pistol when he parked his rental car near a beauty supply store and approached an empty police vehicle at the convenience store next door. He appeared to raise his rifle, perhaps ready to fire, but no one was inside the patrol car.
Long bypassed civilians as he walked around in the area before he opened fire on police.
Long served in the Marines from 2005 to 2010, including a seven-month stint in 2008 in Iraq. He was a data network specialist who reached the rank of sergeant before an honorable discharge. Long never saw combat in Iraq, but he told doctors he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because a friend showed him videos of maimed and decapitated bodies, medical records showed.
Military doctors diagnosed Long in November 2011 as suffering from an “adjustment disorder with depressed mood,” but not PTSD.
Moore said he spoke to Long’s mother, Corine Woodley, on Thursday and briefed her on his findings.
“I asked her about mental health issues. She indicated that her son seemed to be different when he came back from the Marines,” Moore said.