Gavin Long’s last 10 days, from book peddler to Baton Rouge cop killer

In a rented Chevy Malibu with a load of his self-published books, Gavin Eugene Long took off from Kansas City and down a path that authorities say eventually led him to hunt down and kill police officers.

Along the way, he visited a childhood friend in Dallas, made stops in black barbershops and drove through urban neighborhoods flashing money and passing out his self-help books to anyone who’d take them.

“I’m trying to give knowledge to our people,” he’d say.

Investigators in Missouri, Texas and Louisiana continue to trace Long’s last steps to identify people he met and to learn what he did in the 10 days before his death. Did he spew any hatred for police? Did anyone know he planned to ambush police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday morning? Did he have any kind of help?

In the end, those answers will tell authorities whether anyone else should face charges in the deaths of three officers and the wounding of three more, all shot by Long in a cluster of businesses on an unremarkable thoroughfare in central Baton Rouge.

The answers also could hint at what prompted Long to go on his rampage.

How did a young man who on July 9 appeared driven and passionate about his heritage become the killer recorded by surveillance cameras eight days later in Louisiana? Clad in black, armed with two rifles and a handgun, methodically and tactically moving around buildings to shoot more officers.

If he hadn’t been killed by the Baton Rouge SWAT team, authorities fear more than three officers would be dead.

“This guy was going to another location. He was not going to stop there,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said earlier this week. “After he was finished here, I have no doubt he was heading to our headquarters and he was going to take more lives.”

Relatives in Kansas City have remained silent. Long is believed to have lived with family in the metro area but appeared to have traveled extensively over the years. His immediate family, grandmother, aunts and uncles did not return phone calls or emails.

Long’s childhood wasn’t easy, according to court records detailing his parents’ divorce. His father, Herschel Long, had “done very little to foster and maintain an affectionate relationship between himself and the child,” including not buying birthday or Christmas gifts, those records show.

But what’s more telling is how Long changed as an adult, said one of his closest friends. When he returned from a five-year stint in the Marines, from 2005 to 2010, Long had changed, said Felix Omoruyi of Dallas, who met Long during middle school in Grandview and remained close.

“When he got back from the Marines, my brother wasn’t the same brother,” Omoruyi told The Star. “It was like he was more secretive.”

Long reportedly told friends and family that he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a report by CNN.

Since the Baton Rouge killings, Omoruyi has spoken to Long’s family. From them, he learned that about an hour or two before the Baton Rouge shootings, Long sat in the rental car calling relatives.

“He said, ‘I want y’all to get all together and teach people about religion,’ ” Omoruyi said.

Hanging out in Dallas

After the shootings earlier this month of two black men by white officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, Long spoke about how angry he was. He thought that police were executing black men.

“He was fed up,” Omoruyi said. “He never said, ‘They are killing the brothers.’ He would say, ‘They are killing us, they are killing you,’ and point at me.”

Hours after five Dallas police officers were shot and killed on July 7, Long arrived at his friend’s home in Texas. He had driven overnight from Kansas City and showed up at 3 a.m.

Over the next day, Long watched and rewatched — too many times for Omoruyi to recall — the shooting of Alton Sterling by officers in Baton Rouge on July 5. Sterling, his body quivering, died over and over again on the 60-inch television screen.

Long slept on the couch in the studio where Omoruyi — a rapper who goes by “Feva” — creates his music. The two friends, who didn’t get to see each other often, enjoyed hanging out.

As teenagers in Kansas City, they’d party, cruise around and hit the clubs. Long was never a hothead, Omoruyi said. Long was a ladies man with the nickname “G Money.”

While Long visited Dallas on July 8, Omoruyi was proud to show his friend how well his music business was going and how he needed to deposit thousands in the bank. But Long matched that and more, pulling out a handful of cash. Double his thousands, Omoruyi suspected.

“My jaw dropped,” he said. “I don’t know where he got that kind of money.”

Long had multiple websites and YouTube channels and had built a persona and business venture under the name Cosmo Setepenra. He billed himself as a life coach who charged $119 an hour, a spiritual leader, fitness buff and nutritionist who went from being a chubby teen to losing 80 pounds.

He also talked about African spirituality and read the Bible and Quran. But, Omoruyi said, his friend didn’t identify with Christianity or Islam.

“He believed that we were all one, all connected in some way,” Omoruyi said.

Long stayed one night with his friend. When he left, he asked Omoruyi to go with him. At that point, Long’s plan was only to drive around Dallas, passing out his books, and then head to Houston to do the same, Omoruyi said.

He begged off, knowing he had to take care of his three daughters.

Never could he have imagined, he said, what would happen in Baton Rouge in just eight days.

‘No red flags’

Long walked into a busy Dallas barbershop on Saturday afternoon, July 9, between noon and 2, carrying a box of books.

The shop’s owner figured he was selling something. Dressed in a white shirt and white pants, Long introduced himself as “Cosmo.” He said he was from Missouri.

He assured the shop’s owner, Andre Hurd, that he wasn’t selling anything, just passing out books he’d written while living in Africa about self-empowerment and being a strong man.

“He just seemed like a young man that was passionate about what he believed in,” Hurd said.

Calm and comfortable with the owner and his customers, Long approached a customer’s child, who was playing on a cellphone. He handed the boy one of his books in an attempt to get him to read instead of play on the phone.

Long soon took out a wad of rolled bills from his front pocket. He showed it around.

“He said, ‘I’m not no hustler, no pimp. I’m no drug dealer. No professional athlete,’ ” Hurd recalled. “ ‘I did this by reading, using my brain. … You can have the same thing.’ 

Hurd took notice of how Long wore two empty gun holsters but wondered if it was just some kind of fashion statement.

As the shop owner and his customers listened, Long kept talking.

“Our people have to stand up,” Long told the group.

But the words didn’t come out in an angry way, Hurd said.

“He didn’t go into it like we have to go kill anybody, hurt anybody,” Hurd said. “I thought he was a good young man, going in the right direction.”

When Long left, he went to another barbershop, His & Hers. This time, he had a big necklace that people in the shop later learned was a body camera. Long posted a video of his interactions there on YouTube.

Long’s reception at His & Hers wasn’t as warm. He stayed about five minutes, said Bryan Davis, a barber and stylist.

“The vibe we were giving him, it wasn’t an acceptance vibe,” said Davis, who kept his earbuds in while Long was in the shop. “It was a vibe of, like, ‘OK, we’re not really feeling you.’ 

But, Davis insisted, nothing about Long spelled trouble. Not even when his voice rose as he spoke about different issues, especially money.

“He started off real calm,” Davis said. “No red flags.”

At one point, as Davis continued to cut a man’s hair, Long pulled out a wad of money just as he had at Hurd’s shop.

“Money is nothing,” Long told them, his voice rising several notes. “I swear it’s nothing. This is not real. They want you to believe it is.”

The only thing that mattered, he told them, was the recipe to get the money. And that, he told them, is what he knew — and could share.

Davis’ client challenged Long, gesturing to the wad of bills the Kansas City man had in his hand. “ ‘If money isn’t real and nothing, then let me have that,’ ” Davis recalled his client saying.

Long reportedly answered: “No, I don’t want you to have this. I want to give you a recipe so you can do it.”

Before Long left, he told the people inside His & Hers: “I’m here for you.”

Davis still can’t fathom how the man he saw passing out books and preaching loudly could end up shooting Baton Rouge officers.

“He seemed genuine, he seemed passionate,” Davis said. “A salesman that transformed into a pro-black guy that is completely down with his cause. He transformed within seconds.”

‘Out here in these streets’

From Dallas, Long drove to Houston.

On July 12, five days after he left Kansas City, he posted a video that showing him driving around Houston, the heavy bass of rap music rattling the car speakers.

“I’m passing out my books to my people,” he told one person after he stopped in a neighborhood. “It’s a lot of knowledge that we don't know about. Knowledge is power. I got the knowledge. When you got the knowledge, you got the recipe for success.”

Later, in a Houston hotel room, Long made another video. He wore a TMT (The Money Team) hat and wristbands, a white shirt and two empty gun holsters, as he did inside Hurd’s barbershop in Dallas.

“When Native Americans were extincted by the people who run this country, at what point should they have stood up?” Long said into the camera. “So I’m out here in these streets. … You remember. You look up. You get up. And you don’t ever give up.”

It’s unknown when he drove to Baton Rouge, or whether it was a spontaneous decision or his destination all along. Authorities have said he was in the city for several days.

Long is thought to have stayed at a Knights Inn motel along Airline Highway, according to the Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate, citing unnamed sources close to the investigation.

An employee at the motel, which advertises rates at less than $50 per night, declined to comment Wednesday when a reporter asked if Long had stayed there.

A glimpse of how Long spent time in Baton Rouge is provided in a video that appears to have been recorded by him shortly before the shooting.

The video, posted online by The Advocate, follows Long as he drives around Baton Rouge, promoting his book and doling out life advice.

Over the course of about 10 minutes, Long carries on a mostly one-sided conversation with a man he seems to have just met as they drive along Plank Road in northern Baton Rouge, about two miles from the convenience store where Sterling was shot and killed by a police officer.

Long briefly mentions Sterling but says he wasn’t there for the demonstrations that followed that shooting. “I'm not really into protesting, but I do education,” Long says in the video. The protesters, he says, will be gone in a month.

He talks of Huey Newton, the political activist and co-founder of the Black Panthers; Malcolm X; and his own travels in Africa. He advises his passenger to work in multiple trades to guarantee success, not to have children until he is financially stable and to only patronize black-owned businesses.

Long does not mention in the video any plans for the shooting that was to come, but he does frequently strike a militant tone.

“If you don't stand up for your rights,” he says, “then you have no rights.”

Final act

On Sunday morning, his 29th birthday, he was out cruising again — this time outside the B-Quick convenience store near a busy intersection on a commercial corridor. That’s when, authorities say, he began to hunt for officers to shoot.

Surveillance video captured some of his actions.

“It is chilling in the sheer brutality,” Col. Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police said earlier this week.

Long parked his car between the B-Quick and a beauty supply shop. Passers-by saw him walking around in a black mask and black clothing, carrying an unusual-looking beige rifle — an Israeli-made Tavor SAR carbine produced specifically for the U.S. market.

“A dude with a rifle walking down Airline Highway,” a 911 caller reported about 8:40 a.m.

Long approached a parked patrol car, gun at the ready. No one was inside. He got back in his vehicle and drove deeper into the cluster of buildings, parking behind a fitness center.

From there, he returned on foot, authorities said, stalking the police officers and sheriff’s deputies who were responding to reports of a gunman in the driveway of the beauty supply shop.

The shooting started when Long turned the corner of the building and confronted two law enforcement officers. He killed one and wounded the other. The wounded officer began crawling away. As a sheriff’s deputy moved to help that officer, Long shot and killed him.

Continuing down the driveway, Long killed the first wounded officer, who had crawled toward the front of the store.

In a span of seconds, Long apparently ran around the edge of the cluster of buildings, climbed a wall and returned to the parking lot of the fitness center, where he shot a deputy in the head and stomach, leaving the man in critical condition this week.

Long then shot and wounded another deputy before a SWAT officer killed Long with a 100-yard rifle shot from near the highway.

The slain lawmen were Baton Rouge Police Officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson, and Deputy Brad Garafola of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities identified Long as the shooter early Monday morning. They waited for the official announcement until after they had tested his fingerprints.

In Long’s pocket, they found a card for the Washitaw Nation, a sovereign citizen group.

Long had showed Omoruyi that card days before the Baton Rouge shooting when he visited his friend in Dallas. The friend knew about the group and its belief that African-Americans are the country’s indigenous people.

“You should get you one too,” Long said. Omoruyi laughed: “I’m Nigerian. I know where I come from.”

Hours after the officers died, news spread about Long’s involvement, and Omoruyi’s phone lit up with calls.

“I cried like a girl,” he said.

Omoruyi struggles with how his close friend, whom he called “my brother,” ended up. He had seen him eight days before and never questioned his mindset.

“He wasn’t a racist, but he wanted a change in the black community,” Omoruyi said. “He wanted black people to own businesses. He wanted black people to become police officers. He wanted black people to stand up.

“I never thought in a million years he would do something like that.”

Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc