Hundreds Attend Vigil for Slain Baton Rouge Officers

     BATON ROUGE, La. (CN) – Hundreds gathered at dusk Monday and lit candles, one off the next, in honor of the three police officers shot and killed and three others wounded Sunday in the line of duty.
     The vigil at Healing Place Church on Highland Road was put together to support the family of Matthew Gerald, 41, a father of two and a Marine and U.S. Army vet who was killed Sunday along with two other offers, but speakers at the vigil spoke of all of the officers killed and injured in Sunday’s shooting.
     Gerald had joined the police department just four months prior to the incident Sunday. Among the other officers slain was Brad Garafola, 45, a father to four children ages 7 to 21 who a neighbor described as “the epitome of a peace officer,” according to the Associated Press. Garafola was a 24 year veteran to the force. Also killed was 32-year-old Montrell Jackson, a 10-year police veteran and the one black officer of the group who had a four-month-old baby. Jackson was described by his younger brother as a “protector” who “went and above and beyond,” according to the Associated Press.
     The accused killer, 29-year-old Gavin Long, was killed by police during the shooting.
     The Kansas City Star reported that Long appears to have been aligned with a “sovereign citizen” ideology, whose followers believe the government is corrupt and out of control and has no jurisdiction over them.
     The ideology has its roots in racist and anti-Semitic beliefs, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which says many people who hold “the truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs” are black, as was Long, and unaware of the movement’s racist origins.
     Long kept an online persona as Cosmo Setepenra and ran the website, on which he marketed himself as a life coach, publishing blogs, podcasts and videos in which he spoke of his beliefs and discussed topics in the news, including spirituality and self-actualization.
     In recent months, Long had begun to express outrage over police shootings, according to the Star.
     As Setepenra he tweeted about racism, including the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5 and the shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas on July 7.
     Long served in Iraq with the U.S. Marines. He was a Marine from 2005 until 2010 and worked as a data network specialist, according to The Associated Press. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant after serving in Iraq from June 2008 until January 2009, and received several medals, including one for good conduct.
     In a YouTube post, speaking from Dallas following the massacre of five police officers during a rally to protest Alton Sterling’s July 5 death, Long said words and peaceful protests cannot help those who are being bullied.
     “Before the police shooting occurred, I had already made the decision to be here,” Long said in the post, and surmised it may have been a “spiritual decision” to travel to Dallas.
     “I just want to speak on some of the events that are going on right now,” Long said. “Independence Day is really based on George Washington, the Americans, fighting against their oppressor.” Long said that in the case of Independence Day fighting against oppression is celebrated, but when, for instance, a black man rallies against a system he feels oppressed by, his fighting is considered criminal.
     “We got to start questioning our own mindset. Are our thoughts our own thoughts?” Long asks in the eight-minute-long video. “Because it doesn’t even make sense, the shit we’re thinking about. You feel me? You got to really question your thoughts. Because you’re saying one person is right, but then you’re saying another person is wrong for doing the same exact fucking thing. In fact, we celebrate it and make holidays about it. It doesn’t make sense.”
     “Question your thoughts. Question everything you are thinking. I’m telling you this because sometimes people out here are programmed and they don’t even they’re not even questioning anything. Alright, that’s why I tell you: ‘Be curious. Curiosity. Stay a child. … I’m out in these streets. Children is like, ‘yeah, I agree with you.’ Because the children still have that curiosity. They didn’t beat it out of ’em yet. You see? That is why I love the kids. And that’s why I’m still a motherfucking kid. I’m a die a kid. I am not growing up. I’m keeping my own mind, my own logic, right here.”
     Long said 100 percent of bullies have been successful fighting their oppressors by fighting back. “Zero have been successful over simply protesting,” he said.
     “You have to fight back. That’s the only way a bully knows to quit. He doesn’t know words. He can’t understand words. … Fighting back and money, that’s all they care about,” Long said.
     Long traveled to Baton Rouge in a white rented Chevy Malibu and stayed several days planning his attack, according to investigators.
     A Kansas City Star reporter wrote that a man carrying a gun answered the door Sunday at a house in Kansas City where Long had most recently lived.
     The Los Angeles Times reported that Terrance Horad, who lived next door to Long in Kansas City had said “there was nothing unusual about” Long.
     “What is almost dream-like about all this,” Horad told the Times, “is that you never know what it could be that would push someone you know, like a neighbor, right over the edge.”
     “But if bad things keep happening to a certain kind of people — black or white or green — some people just aren’t going to take it anymore. They’ll think, hey, those are our kids getting shot down,” Horad said.
     “But we can’t take the violent approach or there’ll be dead bodies laying all over the place. But I can kind of understand.”

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