Online the shooter called himself Cosmo Setepenra, and more than a week before he killed three police officers Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., he told a YouTube audience he didn’t want to be associated with organized groups in case anything happened to him.
“I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice: nothing else, nothing more, nothing less,” he said in the clip.
Cosmo Setepenra’s real name was Gavin Eugene Long, and he was from Kansas City. As the nation took in yet another horrific murderous rampage, public records, social media and recollections from former classmates paint a picture of a puzzling personality:
He was a military veteran without a criminal record. He had a robust online presence, where in “Convos with Cosmo” he doled out everything from health tips to advice to help men reach “complete and full masculinity.”
He took up anti-government views, and while he said he didn’t want to be affiliated with any organized groups, he was a member of a bizarre offshoot of the sovereign citizen movement and had been associated with the Nation of Islam. He saw police as part of the government and was outraged by the recent spate of police shootings of black men.
Followers of the sovereign citizen movement believe the government is corrupt and has no jurisdiction over them. Federal authorities consider the movement a domestic terrorist threat, and the movement continues to swell, with violent incidents erupting regularly.
Long declared himself a sovereign in records filed with the Jackson County recorder of deeds last year.
“No doubt at all,” said J.J. MacNab, an author who for two decades has been tracking anti-government extremists. “He’s 100 percent sovereign citizen.”
MacNab said Long fell into the Moorish Sovereign category, more specifically the Washitaw Nation of Mu’urs.
“This group believes that they are indigenous to the continent and therefore above all federal, state and local laws,” said MacNab, who also is a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. “These documents show Long’s attempt to separate his flesh and blood ‘indigenous’ self from his legal entity self.”
Long filed the document with the Jackson County recorder in May 2015, saying he was with the United Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah Mu’ur Nation, Mid-West Washita Tribes.
The document included a “live claim birth” record in which he changed his name to Cosmo Ausar Setepenra.
A search of his online postings found that Long told a YouTube audience in a video posted July 10 — a few days after the Dallas sniper shooting — that he had traveled to Dallas and was in the city during the attack that killed five officers. He called the incident “justice.”
He opined on how history shows that “100 percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppression, from victims fighting their bullies, 100 percent have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed.”
“Zero have been successful just over simply protesting,” Long told his audience in a calm tone. “It doesn’t. … It has never worked and it never will. You got to fight back.”
A day after the Dallas attacks, Long said that “it’s time for the men to start sacrificing.”
“With the brother killing the police, it’s justice,” he said. “My religion is the religion of justice. ... I was a Christian once, I was a Muslim once, I was all that. But my religion is justice.”
He informed his audiences that the “sacrifices I make and the sacrifices I will make” are dedicated to black women and youth. He referred to the movie “Deacons for Defense,” based on the true story about an armed self-defense group of African-Americans who protected civil rights organizations in the U.S. during the 1960s.
“It’s a time for peace, but it’s a time for war,” he said. “And most of the times when you want peace, you gotta go to war.”
He encouraged “real” and “alpha” individuals who wanted change to move away from protests in order to invoke change.
“It’s only fighting back or money,” Long said. “That’s all they care about. Revenue and blood. Revenue and blood. Revenue and blood.”
Kansas City connections
It was unclear where Long was born or grew up, but he graduated from Grandview High School in 2005 and lived in the 4600 block of Craig Avenue in Grandview. Classmates remembered him as a big, quiet guy who was easy to get along with. He wouldn’t say a lot, but when he did, it was humorous, a friend who graduated with Long said.
The classmates who spoke to The Star asked not to be identified.
The friend remembered Long entered the U.S. Marines after high school and slimmed down. He was discharged after a few years for health reasons, and spent some time in the hospital after a physical injury.
After getting out, Long went off the grid and traveled to Africa, where he spent some time.
“While he was in Africa, he had talked about how he found Islam and he was writing a book,” the classmate said. “He had kind of — I wouldn’t call it gone off the rocker — but it was a little weird.”
Long eventually started advocating that there was some type of government conspiracy, that government was out to get people and people needed to stand up for their rights.
“He had gone full-on anti-government and anti-establishment,” a friend said. “He was definitely not a full-on radical, but he had a different take than a normal person.”
A different classmate said Long had always been a person who defended those who were mistreated.
“He was never about anything negative,” the friend said. “I would say he was man for justice but I would say he stood for what he stood for. He wasn’t scared or embarrassed to say what he believed in.”
The classmate said he was shocked that Long was identified as the gunman.
“I really can’t speak on what his motives were,” the classmate said. “I never would have thought of him doing anything that radical.”
According to military records, Long joined the military right after high school, serving as a Marine from 2005 to 2010 and rising to the rank of sergeant. He served in Iraq from June 2008 to January 2009, and records show he received several medals, including one for good conduct. Long, who received an honorable discharge, was listed as a “data network specialist.”
On his website, Long said he he spent two years in Japan and completed one tour in Iraq while serving in the Marines. When stationed in San Diego, he says, he “became a highly esteemed and sought after nutritionist and personal trainer.”
After the Marines, he attended the University of Alabama for one semester, in the spring of 2012, according to university spokesman Chris Bryant. University police had no interaction with Long during that time, Bryant said.
On his website, Long says he received an associate degree in general studies from Central Texas College, then attended Clark Atlanta University, where he was on the dean’s list.
Records show that he married Aireyona Osha Hill on July 25, 2009, at the Pilgrim Chapel on Gillham Road. Two years later, he filed for divorce. Records suggest the couple did not have children.
Roger Coleman of Pilgrim Chapel said he was one of five people who performed wedding ceremonies for Jackson County each weekend. Coleman said he performed about 10 weddings each week over a 30-year period.
“We could’ve easily done it,” he said. “I’m not aware of any memory about him or the ceremony.”
Sometimes couples were married at the chapel at the historic Pilgrim Wedding Chapel at 3801 Gillham Road either on Friday or Saturday.
A Star reporter on Sunday afternoon knocked on the door of a Kansas City home listed as Long’s last known address, at 1166 E. 77th Terrace. The reporter was met at the door by a man with a gun who declined to comment.
No one was at the home where his ex-wife last lived. Neighbors said the couple had moved out some time ago but occasionally visited the three-story brown-colored house.
Court records also show that a petition was filed against Long on March 17 for delinquent city earnings tax. The summons was served to his mother on June 1, documents show, and the case was dismissed on June 7.
Social media life
On various social media sites affiliated with his website, Long shared and promoted a brand that covered myriad subjects, from sex, health and entertainment to how men and women needed to know and stand up for their rights. He called himself a “freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual advisor.”
More recently, Long had been addressing officer-involved shootings, posting videos about the arrests of African-Americans.
He often referenced a spiritual awakening heightened by a trip to Africa.
After 1 1/2 years at Clark, Long’s website said, he had a “spiritual revelation,” dropped out of college, sold his two cars, gave away his belongings and went to Africa on a spiritual journey.
Several YouTube videos show him approaching people on the street distributing books on detoxing, healing and transformation that he said he wrote in Africa.
On July 12, Long posted a YouTube video of him approaching a group of men in Houston.
He tells the group he used to “party with celebrities” and sleep with women. He then offers more detail about his spiritual revelation. He said he sold all his material possessions and went to Africa, where he fasted, refrained from sex and “wrote three books.” Those books, variations of “The Cosmos Way,” are displayed on his website.
Recent tweets seemed to reference his desire to see a more powerful, unified force combat white power and “elevate” black people.
“Power doesn’t respect weakness. Power only respects Power. # Alton # Castile,” he tweeted on July 7.
He also tweeted:
“Violence is not THE answer (its a answer), but at what point do you stand up so that your people dont become the Native Americans...EXTINCT?” and “Just bc you wake up every morning doesn’t mean that you’re living. And just bc you shed your physical body doesn’t mean that you’re dead.”
The Star’s Katy Bergen, Ian Cummings, Judy L. Thomas, Robert A. Cronkleton, Glenn E. Rice, Matt Campbell and Katherine Knott contributed to this report.