The gunman who killed three police officers and wounded three others in Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge, on Sunday reportedly suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An anonymous source involved in the investigation told CNN that Gavin Eugene Long, 29, filled his prescription for the antianxiety drug lorazepam, which is sold under the brand name Ativan, in June. He had also been prescribed the antianxiety drug diazepam (Valium) and the anti-insomnia drug eszopiclone (Lunesta), according to the report.
Diazepam and lorazepam are both benzodiazepines, classified as tranquilizers, which are commonly prescribed to treat PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD.
Long, of Kansas City, Mo., served in the Marine Corps from August 2005 to August 2010 as a data network specialist and achieved the rank of sergeant, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. military. He was deployed to Iraq from June 2008 until January 2009.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that feeling afraid during and after a traumatic event is natural and that the fight-or-flight response is intended to protect oneself from harm. Most people recover from these early symptoms naturally, but someone might be diagnosed with PTSD if feelings of fright or stress persist long after the danger has gone away.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), roughly 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom) or the war in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) suffer from PTSD in a given year.
These figures are similar to those provided by the VA for other modern wars: Twelve percent of Gulf War veterans have PTSD in a given year, and 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans had PTSD at the time of the latest study in the 1980s: the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study.
Long went by the name “Cosmos Setepenra” on his social media channels. On July 10, three days after five police officers were killed and nine other people were injured in Dallas, Long produced a YouTube video from that city in which he advocated for violence over peaceful protest.
He incorrectly argued that 100 percent of violent revolutions have been successful and that zero nonviolent protests have been successful, ignoring well-known cases of successful nonviolent resistance like Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience in British-ruled India.
Authorities said Long specifically targeted police officers and bypassed civilians during his killing spree on Sunday. A police marksman ended the bloodshed less than 10 minutes after it began by killing Long from 100 yards away.
Police said they think that the former Marine had planned to extend his rampage to the nearby Baton Rouge Police Department’s headquarters.
The city of Baton Rouge has become a flashpoint for racial tension in the United States this month. On July 5, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot and killed while pinned down by two police officers outside a convenience store.
Video of Sterling’s death led to widespread protest and further damaged the already frayed relationship between law enforcement and minority communities.