Baton Rouge Shooter Linked to Black Sovereign Movement

Gavin Long declared himself a member of a “tribe” with “special laws.”

ByABC News
July 18, 2016, 3:21 PM

— -- A year before he gunned down three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday, Gavin Long filed to legally change his name to Cosmo Setepenra and declared himself a member of an indigenous “nation” governed by “special laws,” according to court documents.

The group, the United Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah Mu’ur Nation, Mid-West Washita Tribes, according to the May 2015 filing, includes members who “embody historical continuity with societies, which existed prior to the conquest and settlement of their territories by Europeans ... (as well as peoples brought involuntarily to the New World who freed themselves and re-established cultures from which they have been torn).”

The members also include “tribal people” who have unique “social, cultural and economic conditions” and whose “status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations,” say the documents, as reported by The Kansas City Star.

In the wake of the shooting, a source briefed on law enforcement’s investigation told ABC News it appeared that Long showed support online for the Moorish Science Temple of America, which was described in an unrelated lawsuit as a group that believes the descendants of slaves are not subject to U.S. laws. A representative for the group said Long was not a member and that its teachings do not espouse “criminal activities.”

Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told ABC News that both groups fall under a broader Moorish movement, which shares some ideology with the more prominent and usually extreme right-wing sovereign citizen movement.

“While still retaining most traditional sovereign citizen pseudo-historical and pseudo-legal theories, Moorish sovereigns added new ideas, including the notion that African-Americans had special rights because of a 1780s treaty with Morocco, as well as the belief that African-Americans were descended from African Moors — and often also the belief that African-Americans were also a people indigenous to the Americas,” he said.

The Washitaw Nation began in the mid-1990s in Louisiana and claims its members are descendants from the “ancient mound builders of the Mississippi-Missouri Valley,” Segal said.

Last September, a self-declared “free Moorish national,” Olajuwon Ali Davis, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to a purported plot to blow up the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. In a video uploaded to YouTube in 2013, Davis says he changed his name and declared his new “nationality,” meaning he was no longer subject to many U.S. laws, carried a self-made identification card and no longer had to pay taxes.

“I am no longer a slave to the Matrix,” Davis says in the video, which was previously reported by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Long, who was active online under the name Cosmo until just hours before he was killed in his attack, uploaded some videos of sovereign citizens’ interactions with authorities but does not appear to have discussed links to the Moorish movement. A representative listed on a Washitaw Nation website did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Police are still investigating the motive for the shooting. On social media, Long, who served as an IT specialist in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2010, criticized police brutality and praised the shooting of five police officers in Dallas earlier this month.

Days before the Baton Rouge shooting, he posted on Twitter, “Violence is not THE answer (its an answer), but at what point do you stand up so that your people dont become the Native Americans... EXTINCT?”

The day before he the attack, he wrote, “Don’t let someone get comfortable with disrespecting you.” And in his last tweet he wrote, “Just [because] you wake up every morning doesn’t mean that you’re living. And just [because] you shed your physical body doesn’t mean you’re dead.”

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