SEYMOUR, Mo. - A local police chief has become one of the nation's experts on the ideology that drove Gavin Long to kill three police officers in Baton Rouge, La.Here's the real scoop about this deranged terrorist and his wacky group:
Long claimed to be a member of the "Washitaw Nation of Mu'urs," a group which believes it is native to North America and above any U.S. law. It is a so-called “sovereign citizen” group.
Bob Paudert is currently serving as the interim police chief in Seymour, Missouri after a more than 40-year law enforcement career in the Memphis area.
He travels around the country to teach law enforcement officers about what sovereign citizens believe, and what to be aware of if they encounter one.
In May 2010, Paudert was the police chief of West Memphis, Arkansas, when two sovereign citizens gunned down two of his officers during a traffic stop. One of those officers was his son.
"To be shot by a 16-year-old kid with an AK-47 on interstate 40, by a group we've never heard of, was just unbelievable," Paudert said.
In 2010, local law enforcement and the FBI knew little about sovreign citizens. Since Paudert's son died, he has made it his mission to identify the behaviors of people who believe the government is illegitimate and they do not have to follow any laws.
"Everything they stand for is a contradiction,” Paudert said. “They don't believe in our court system but they'll use it to sue law enforcement. They say they're Christians, and they're not -- they're just absolutely not."
Gavin Eugene Long, who police have identified as the shooter who killed three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday (July 17), changed his name in May 2015 and declared himself a part of the Washitaw Nation. Members of an affiliated sovereign group, who consider themselves independent from the United States and dismiss government authority, made their presence known in New Orleans earlier this year.
Court documents in Kansas City show Long, who changed his name to Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, claimed his nationality as United Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah Mu'ur. The Washitaw, sometimes spelled Washitah, believe their ancestors were original inhabitants of the New World, who they say were black Africans.
They trace their lineage back to the ancient Mississippian culture that lived along the river and Gulf Coast. The Washitaw Nation says their claims to the Louisiana Purchase were not recognized when Napoleon sold the large swath of North America to the United States in 1803. The federal government does not recognize their existence, and court rulings have followed suit.*snip*
The Washitaw also identify as Mu'urs, which they say is the accurate spelling of Moors, the civilization that developed after the Arab conquest of North Africa. Their movement organized in the mid-1990s in north Louisiana. Their leader, Verdiacee Turner Goston, espoused an Afro-centric take on anthropology and history, said Mark Pitcavage, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, which tracks the sovereign citizen movement.*snip*
According to a report from the Kansas City Star, Long was involved with the Nation of Islam before joining Washitaw Nation. He viewed police as part of the government and was infuriated over recent police shootings of black men, most recently the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castille in Minnesota.