The mother of the Iraq war veteran who shot and killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge said Thursday that she believes her son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and that he once said he thought the CIA was following him.
Gavin Long’s mother, Corine Woodley, told PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley that her son would “pretty much lose it” and become furious every time he heard about a black man being shot by police in what he considered an unlawful manner.
Police gunned down Long, a 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Missouri, after he shot and killed three officers and wounded three others during a shootout Sunday.
Woodley described how her son rented a car several times and drove to the locations where other black men had been shot by police and would tell her: “Somebody has to do something.”
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Smiley taped his interview of Woodley in Los Angeles. Woodley brought a letter she said he received from the Department of Veterans Affairs denying her son’s request for treatment of PTSD in 2013 on grounds that the disorder wasn’t related to his military service. The letter was shown to an Associated Press reporter but could not be independently verified.
Long spent five years in the Marine Corps. He served one tour in Iraq before being honorably discharged. His occupational expertise was listed as a “data network specialist.” Although he never saw combat, there was “shooting all around” where he was stationed, his mother said.
Veterans Health Administration records show a number of contacts with Long from 2008 to 2013, with the last known encounter with the VA in August 2013, according to a statement from the VA this week. The statement said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits the VA from disclosing any additional information.
Long was armed with two rifles and a pistol and wearing a ski mask when he ambushed the officers near a gas station and convenience store.
Two Baton Rouge police officers — 32-year-old Montrell Jackson and 41-year-old Matthew Gerald — and 45-year-old East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brad Garafola were killed in the shooting.
“My heart bleeds for the families (of the officers), more so than Gavin,” his mother said. “I know Gavin; I know he did it. He didn’t see any way out (from) the vicious killings from the police officers. He actually felt that was the only thing he could do to help the situation.”
She also brought two diaries that she said her troubled son wrote — one in 2014 and one in 2015 — that includes rambling thoughts on philosophy, religion and politics.
At one point, he wrote: “If you are not going to let me live, then you are going to have to kill me.”
The diaries are in addition to a self-described, handwritten manifesto that an Ohio man says was emailed to him by Long less than an hour before the shootings.
In the letter, Long said he expected people who knew him wouldn’t believe he would commit “such horrendous acts of violence.” He wrote that he viewed his actions as necessary to “create substantial change within America’s police force.”
Photographs of the three-page letter show it was signed by “Cosmo,” the first name of an alias used by Baton Rouge gunman Gavin Long, and the pictures were attached to an email sent from a Google address that Long used.
The Associated Press obtained the photographs of the letter Wednesday from Yarima Karama, a Columbus, Ohio, musician who said he didn’t know Long personally but received several emails from him after Long began commenting on Karama’s YouTube videos in March.
The AP was not able to conclusively verify Long sent the photos himself from his Google account. Metadata reviewed from the three photos indicates they were snapped shortly before 8 a.m. on the day of the shooting using a Motorola Android cellphone, but both photos and time stamps can be modified.
Karama said he provided a copy of the letter to FBI agents who interviewed him at his home Wednesday. Louisiana State Police Maj. Doug Cain said authorities were trying to verify that Long wrote the letter.
The letter did not specifically mention Baton Rouge or detail plans for an attack.
“I know I will be vilified by the media & police,” it read. “I see my actions as a necessary evil that I do not wish to partake in, nor do I enjoy partaking in, but must partake in, in order to create substantial change within America’s police force, and judicial system.”
Associated Press reporter Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge contributed to this report.