Seeing what Gavin Eugene Long left behind -- three dead officers, three more wounded and a digital trail of his swelling agitation over recent police shootings of black people -- former FBI profiler Kathleen Puckett said she was struck by a mother's story of her son's "keen sense of justice."
Corine Woodley recently described a custody hearing with Herschel Long, whose conduct toward their young son was described as "unkind and inexcusable" in a court filing.
"On the way home, somehow Gavin's father ended up in the elevator with us, and he looked at Gavin and he says, 'Call me sometime,' " Woodley told PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley. "Gavin looked at him in the eyes and said, 'You're the father. You call me.' And so he never called Gavin after that."
Puckett, who was the lead behavioral expert in the hunt for Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and who later directed an FBI study into the traits of "lone wolf" terrorists, sees in that story a possible seed for Long's apparent withdrawal into an Afrocentric ideology of his own creation, his repudiation of the law and his eruption of targeted violence on a Sunday morning in Baton Rouge.
Like other scholars of domestic mass killings, Puckett views Long, a seemingly unmoored ex-Marine, in a familiar mold.
"I think he had a lot of respect for principles. They were very, very important to him, more important than having a personal life, which he essentially didn't have," said Puckett, a clinical psychologist who left the FBI in 2001 and co-authored "Hunting the American Terrorist: The FBI's War on Homegrown Terror."
"A curious feature of these lone offenders is that they really become involved and really attached to ideology rather than other people," she said. "He makes a big point of not doing drugs, not having any other influences. It's a kind of self-intoxication. He is really intoxicated by his own importance."
Long's odd "alpha" ideology of black male empowerment, which he espoused in three self-published books and several YouTube videos, appeared to shift of late, his language becoming more radicalized, Puckett said.
In one video, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, Long vowed to uphold "natural law," a term often employed by extremists of all stripes to deny the validity of man-made laws.
Disavowing prior associations with the Nation of Islam and other groups, Long declared, "Don't affiliate me with nothing. ... I'm affiliated with the spirit of justice. Nothing else. Nothing more, nothing less."
In those words, psychologist Peter Langman hears echoes of Eric Harris, the Columbine High School shooter who demanded full credit for his actions, writing, "Don't blame my family ... don't blame toy stores or any other stores for selling us ammo, bomb materials or anything like that ... don't blame the school."
Langman, the author of two books on school shooters of all ages, also noted the final words Long spoke in a recent seven-minute video: "You're not dealing with a human being."
Dylan Klebold, the other Columbine shooter, made similar statements about not being human, Langman said.
'Deliverer of justice'
"(Long) saw himself as the deliverer of justice: 'America is corrupt; the laws in America are wrong.' He's going to establish justice, and he's the one to do that, said Langman, author of "School Shooters: Understanding High School, College and Adult Perpetrators."
"In that you see a lot of narcissism, grandiosity," he said.
"The people who do this tend to be really non-functional. Long is 29 years old. He's not in graduate school pursuing an education. He's not in the military. He's not working. He's not married," Langman added.
"These are people who appear to be failing in every major life domain. There may be a lot of frustration and rage for all kinds of reasons based on these failures. But the stated reason for the violence may really be more of an excuse, a cover, a rationalization."
Like Puckett, Langman suspects that Long suffered from mental illness, though the extent of any diagnosis or treatment he may have received remains uncertain.
Long denied taking medications, though a source told CNN that he had filled prescriptions for Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug, as well as Valium and Lunesta, a sleep aid.
As "Cosmo Setependra," the name he sought to formally adopt in Missouri last year, Long wrote three books in which he rejected the germ theory of disease and railed against prescription drugs and “dangerous” surgeries.
"It's interesting he's rattling off these things and saying no, no no, when apparently for some of them it was yes, yes yes. Obviously, you have to take anything he says with a grain of salt," Langman said.
Woodley has said the Department of Veterans Affairs rejected Long's request for help for post-traumatic stress resulting from his deployment to Iraq for seven months ending in January 2009. Long served as a data network specialist. He did not see combat.
Citing federal protections for patient records, the VA has said only that those records show "a number of contacts with this veteran from 2008-2013," with the last coming in August 2013.
Long served in the Marines from 2005 to 2010, reaching the rank of sergeant. He was awarded several medals, including one for good conduct, and received an honorable discharge.
He married Aireyona Osha Hill in Kansas City six months after returning from Iraq, records show, but the two divorced two years later.
On his video recordings, many of them shot in what appears to be a living room studio, Long espoused the military principles of honor, courage and commitment. He preached moderation and discipline, claiming he'd remained celibate for two years and boasting of having read 125 books last year.
Puckett, the former FBI special agent, noted that Long "doesn't denigrate the Marines. He doesn't say he regrets anything he did in the Marines."
Nor did Long appear to have any violent criminal record.
'Devastated by events'
His turn to the rhetoric of "natural law," Puckett said, "is a justification for going outside. The law has become unacceptable even if you have previously adhered to it, admired it, thought it should be upheld.
"Finally you become convinced it's not what you thought it was. It has no authority," she said, pointing to the recent police shootings that Corine Woodley said would send her son into a rage.
"This guy isn't just randomly going out and shooting people on the street. He's shooting cops who are exemplifying the order this guy has felt betrayed him," she said. "He's devastated by events that challenged him beyond the point where he could hold that stance."
Little is known of Long's recent social life, or how he supported himself, though he claimed to have friends and to be on a recent book tour that sent him to Dallas in early July. In Dallas and again in Baton Rouge, he wore a body camera, footage of which he uploaded to the internet.
"It might be that the only audience he really had was on YouTube, or that maybe it was really a fictional audience, or a hoped-for one," Langman said. "Did he have really any followers?"
At best, it appears, Long was the online equivalent of a sidewalk preacher, with at most a passing following, said Dr. Michael Stone, a psychiatry professor at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.
In his videos and the incomplete sketch of his life that has emerged in the two weeks since a police sniper killed him, Long increasingly displayed hallmarks of a common type of mass killer -- the "disgruntled, paranoid loner," said Stone, author of “The Anatomy of Evil,” a book about violent criminals.
"The way that Long's thinking was beginning to turn in the last months before the incident -- he changes his name to something peculiar, thought he was the leader of some party-of-one black movement -- his thinking turned very distinctly psychotic," he said.
"You look at the stories of mass murderers, and the disgruntled, paranoid loner is what you see over and over again."
Stone said Long may have found something more to justify his solo rampage on police. "He was caught up," Stone said, "in what seems to be an atmosphere of license."
Convinced he was tracked
In late May, Long appeared as a guest on an hour-long online show hosted by Lance Scurvin, an Orlando man who gravitates toward the subject of "targeted individuals," people who are convinced they are being tracked, physically or electronically, by the government.
Woodley said her son told her he thought he was being followed by the government, in the U.S. and on an extended trip to Africa. And Long briefly showed interest in support groups for targeted individuals, according to media reports. But on Scurvin's podcast, he downplayed it.
"That's just a small aspect of me. It's not a complete picture of who I am. I'm infinite. You're infinite," he said.
But in what he described as an analogy, Long added, "I'm the one that's freeing slaves. So what do you think they would do to the person that's freeing slaves from the plantation?"
Scurvin said he never met Long in person. The former Marine reached out to him by email last October, he said. They spoke by phone or emailed each other several times. Long, he said, was matter-of-fact about being tracked.
"He said he knew on an electronic level he's being targeted. He didn't get super-specific, but he did tell me the government has technology far beyond what we can imagine," Scurvin said. "He kind of dealt with it and moved on. Like, 'Well, we have a flat tire, let's stick a "donut" on there and keep going.' "
Scurvin said Long gave the impression of someone "who is on the move. He's not on the run, but he's on the move a lot. He's not stuck to a job or stuck to any sense of normalcy any of us have."
Puckett noted that a full portrait of Long is far from complete.
How did he support himself? What did he read? Was he truly suicidal, or did he hope to escape before a sniper took him down from a football field away?
In either case, Long seemed to get what he wanted.
"This guy is trying really hard to have a very lofty philosophy, and the thing is that he knows he wants recognition," Puckett said, "and that's the problem with all of this."