The suspect in the killing of three Baton Rouge police officers changed his name and pledged affiliation to an African-American offshoot of the anti-government Sovereign Citizens Movement, documents show.
The suspect was shot dead on Sunday morning in a gunfight with police, changed his name from Gavin Eugene Long to Cosmo Ausar Setepenra last May, according to Jackson County, Missouri, public records.
He also affiliated himself with the Washitaw Nation, an African-American offshoot of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, a group whose members view the federal government as illegitimate.
Ryan Lenz, an expert from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization that tracks extremist groups, said the papers Setepenra filed showed he was a member of the movement.
“He is definitely a sovereign,” said Lenz. “That process is a sovereign citizen tactic dating back for years. There is no other ideology that such a process falls under except sovereign citizens.”
The Washitaw organization had a meeting in June in Richwood, Louisiana, Lenz said. He described the organization as “loosely organized at this point.”
A senior member of the Washitaw Nation, Frederix Joe Washington, said in an interview that the Baton Rouge shooting suspect was not a member of the group. Washington said he did not know Long and that people often use the group’s name without its permission.
“We know nothing about this man,” Washington said. “We don’t give cards out. IDs out. Licenses, or passports, none of this has been given out by us.”