Baton Rouge police killer connected to Washita Nation

Baton Rouge police killer connected to Washita Nation

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Baton Rouge police say Gavin Long was a card carrying member of the sovereign citizen group known as Washita Nation.

It's a group that is closely watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and one which was recently active in New Orleans.

On social media, Gavin Long actively advocated violence as a means for change. After being shot and killed by a police sniper, Long was found to be carrying a card, showing he was a member of the Washita Nation, which claims ties to native American tribes and property they once possessed.

"They say they are the descendants of the mound people who archaeologists have documented in the past," said Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Washita Nation is one of dozens of fringe groups tracked by the center.

Earlier this year, four Washita Nation members squatted in a Bywater home, keeping police at bay for nearly a week, claiming they were the rightful owners.

"I think he was almost certainly a lone actor, we haven't seen any evidence that Washita Nation was into this, or even contemplated it," said Potok.

With such an active social media profile, some believe Long, should have been tracked.

"I think we could do better. We spend most of our intelligence dollars tracking bad guys overseas," said retired army general Russel Honore, who helped secure New Orleans after Katrina.

Former FBI special agent Jim Bernazzani says U.S. intelligence needs to get up to speed to hopefully prevent such violence instead of analyzing profiles, after the fact.

"They're exploring his computers, cell phones, and his Kansas City  residence, we have a lot of leads in this," said Bernazzani.

Long was a former Marine who also espoused belonging to the nation of Islam.  And though many groups are tracked by the law center, identifying killers ahead of time is tough.

"It's incredibly difficult to ID someone who's about to engage in a terrorist attack unless they are bragging about it to their girlfriend or something like that," said Potok.

Long's social media threats were more general, and though his groups are tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Long himself was not.

"No, we did not know this person at all," said Potok.

Potok believes the violence Long committed Sunday was the first time that any such violence could be attributed to the Washita Nation.

Potok says there are thousands of people who have ideas about killing people, but only a fraction carry out attacks. He says it is impossible to put an FBI agent on the trail of every person who may have radical ideas.

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