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Gavin Long’s path to Baton Rouge marked by big plans, ‘bizarre’ claims

Kansas City Star logoKansas City Star 7/19/2016

Members of the Baton Rouge public pay their respects to the three slain police officers at a roadside memorial growing along Airline Hwy in front of the gas station and car wash where the ambush took place on Monday, July 18, 2016. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Members of the Baton Rouge public pay their respects to the three slain police officers at a roadside memorial growing along Airline Hwy in front of the gas station and car wash where the ambush took place on Monday, July 18, 2016. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
© Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He described his third self-published book as the one that would transform the reader’s life, as it had his own.

“The Laws of the Cosmos,” Cosmo Setepenra boasted on his website, was an amazing journey toward self-awareness and empowerment. The book, according to an online presentation, was co-authored by Enensa Amen, but when contacted by the Kansas City Star, Amen said he merely designed the cover.

“I didn’t even know his real name,” Amen said Monday, a day after authorities say Gavin Eugene Long — who had recast himself as Setepenra — killed three law officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge, La. “We did not engage each other personally. He sent me money, he sent me files. … I never even met the guy.”

Some people with whom Long claimed an association said Monday that they never knew him or had any contact with him; others said he had mischaracterized their relationship.

As Louisiana authorities began to piece together what led up to Sunday’s killings, a clearer picture was emerging of the 29-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man who authorities say ambushed the officers. And that picture of Long — who in recent years had declared himself a nutritionist, life coach and spiritual leader — reveals a man who would take what he could from others and wasn’t always what he said he was.

But the path from that to a man who hunted police in Louisiana 700 miles away is tough to map or even understand.

“It’s important for us to look at that timeline that got him to yesterday morning,” Col. Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police said during a news conference Monday afternoon. “And why? Why did he come to Baton Rouge? Why did he pick Baton Rouge? Why did he pick that location right there and why did he kill police officers? That’s what is important to us.”

Authorities know that Long had been in their community several days; they think he drove there from Dallas, where he’d gone after renting a Chevrolet Malibu in Kansas City. Investigators still haven’t interviewed people with key information about where Long went, whom he saw and what he did.

Family and friends have said little about the 2005 graduate of Grandview High School and five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. On Sunday, a man at 1166 E. 77th Terrace, the last known address for Long, came to the door with a gun in his hand and told a Star reporter he had no comment.

And on Monday, a reporter from another outlet tweeted at 12:06 p.m., “Man just angrily kicked GMA (“Good Morning America”) crew off of Gavin Long family residence in KC. “Do I look like a b---- to you?” he shouted.”

Under the Setepenra identity, Long had a Facebook page called Cosmo Global on which he advertised his self-help books and touted events. The page says he lost more than 80 pounds in six months at age 16 after teaching himself about diet and fitness.

The site says he had planned a “Celebrate Your Life Conference” in Phoenix in November and a “Cruise Into Spirit” to the Caribbean in October. The notice claimed that at least 10 of “the most spiritual leaders on the planet” would join the cruise.

One of the spiritual leaders listed was Kim Russo, a psychic medium.

“She does not know him at all,” said David Roberge, Russo’s personal manager. “She has no idea why he would associate himself with her.”

Long never contacted the cruise producer or travel agency to be a speaker or attendee on the cruise or any tour produced by Divine Travels, according to a statement released regarding Long’s claims.

“He is in no way affiliated with Cruise Into Spirit or Divine Travels,” the statement read. “Our prayers are with the families of the fallen officers.”

Added Roberge: “This is just bizarre.”

———

Long’s upbringing in Kansas City was difficult at times.

He was the only child of Herschel and Corine Long and born a little less than two years after their 1985 marriage. The Longs bought the home at 1166 E. 77th Terrace in 1990.

About five years later, Corine Long filed for divorce.

Gavin Long was in the sole custody of his mother when the divorce was finalized in 1998. According to a judgment from that divorce, Herschel Long had “done very little to foster and maintain an affectionate relationship between himself and the child.”

The judgment described how Herschel Long frequently failed to appear for scheduled visits with his son while the divorce was pending and said he hadn’t bought birthday or Christmas gifts for Gavin.

It described one instance where Herschel Long picked up his son for a visit and dropped him off at day care at a casino.

“The Father’s conduct toward the child has been unkind and inexcusable and is not in the best interests of the child,” the court filing said. “Gavin very much misses his Father.”

Herschel Long died in 2004.

Court records also paint a picture of the family’s financial difficulties when Gavin Long was young. A vehicle listed in his parent’s divorce proceedings had been repossessed. A bank account had a nominal balance. Neither parent could afford health insurance for their son.

Long talked about his childhood in one of his online posts. He described himself as a straight-A student through the fifth or sixth grade and then slipping to C’s.

As a child, he said, “I had a hustle mindset.”

“I sold candy at school. I was a loan shark,” he said. “I mean loan shark meaning I loaned out money to people. … I even loaned out money to my family. Even my mother. I loaned her money and I’d make her pay me back with interest. That’s how I did it. Say I loaned you 20 this Friday, right? That means you’d have to pay me back 25 next Friday.

“And if you didn’t have 25 that Friday? Then every day after would be a dollar more. You see?”

In other posts he bragged about meeting and hanging out with music mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and other celebrities. He said he had traveled the world, dined with royalty and dated the finest women.

When a New York Times reporter contacted businessman Umar Bey on Sunday asking about Gavin Long — who Bey knew as Cosmo Setepenra — Bey was baffled, he told The Star on Monday. He’d had no idea that Long had listed him as a business partner.

Bey said he knew little about Long, except that he had spent time in Africa and was very interested in healing, health and wellness.

Bey is an independent distributor of a Japanese water filtration system company. A year ago, Bey said, Long reached out because he wanted to buy a system for himself.

“He seemed to be very much for black people in the community to be protected, to not be victimized,” Bey said. “I knew that he was Afro-Centric. … He was into African culture and everything like that.”

———

Long served seven months in Iraq and was discharged in August 2010 with the rank of sergeant, according to Marine Corps records.

He attended infantry school and the Marine Corps Communications Electrical School. Records show that he was a data network specialist in the Marines and served in Okinawa and California.

In Apri1 2015, Long contacted a California organization that serves as a support group for people who believe military or government officials are electronically tracking and harassing them.

The harassment can vary from mild to severe, with some of the worst cases allegedly involving the use of secret weapons to inflict pain, according to victims, who call themselves “targeted individuals.”

Long asked to be put on the organization’s “buddy list” while living in West Africa. But a month later, he deactivated his account without explanation, according to the organization, People Against Covert Torture & Surveillance International, also known as PACTS International.

Long is at least the third “targeted individual” to become a mass shooter in recent years, said Derrick Robinson, PACTS’ executive director.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old civilian contractor, killed a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013 before police killed him. Two weeks earlier, Robinson had exchanged emails with Alexis, who thanked PACTS for finally providing answers to things happening to him.

“In his case, he was suffering from hearing voices, from microwave burns, from stalking activity and something else. I don’t remember,” Robinson said. “He was very confused about what was going on. He wanted some answers.”

Alexis asked Robinson for addresses of other victims so that he could write to them, but Robinson said he could not give out that information.

“Two weeks later he walked into the Navy Yard and blew away 12 people,” Robinson said.

In November 2014, another “targeted individual,” lawyer Myron May, opened fire at the Florida State University library before police killed him. He believed government “stalkers” were firing a direct energy weapon at him to inflict pain.

Long had posted a video of May on his YouTube channel. That leads Robinson to believe Long patterned his shooting rampage off May, who may have patterned his Florida State shooting after Alexis and the Navy Yard.

Based on YouTube videos posted by Long, it appears Long thought the Marines were targeting him and keeping him from getting jobs, Robinson said.

Long apparently served as a contact for people who believed they were targeted and were seeking help from another group, the Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit Freedom From Covert Harassment and Surveillance.

That group describes itself as a support group for people marginalized by electronic harassment campaigns, often at the hands of government or law enforcement personnel.

The group’s January newsletter included its “buddy list,” a series of regional contacts offering support for people subjected to these types of campaigns. That list had Long’s e-mail as the contact for victims in Burkina Faso, a western Africa nation.

Officials with Freedom From Covert Harassment and Surveillance were not immediately available for comment.

As for Long’s book? By Monday afternoon, Amazon had taken down the page listing it.

———

(The Kanas City Star’s Laura Bauer, Mara Rose Williams, Donna McGuire, Katy Bergen, Steve Vockrodt and Matt Campbell contributed to this report.)

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