Blog Articles

Police Using Social Media to Learn About the Louisiana Gunman's Motives

As law enforcement tools continue to evolve, new examples of 21st century police work are revealing themselves daily. Many of the evolutions taking place within the law enforcement community are occurring in the realm of cyberspace. And as such, it is critical for local departments to stay on the cutting edge of social media detective work, as the clues that can be found online are often numerous and vital.

Law Enforcement Tools | Social Media & Uncovering a Gunman’s Motives

One such example of social media being put to work by a department occurred with a tragic shooting in Baton Rouge. On July 17, a gunman named Gavin Long attacked and killed three police officers, one from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's department and two from the Baton Rouge Police Department.

After the violent attacks, seemingly random on the surface, the suspect's online trail was quickly picked up. From social media posts to videos, recorded by Long himself, the picture that came together of this disturbed young man would lead investigators to a basic motive. Social media investigating, as a law enforcement tool, has only just come into wide range use in recent years, and it shows great versatility and usefulness. Long's videos and online posts provided a motive for the shootings, as well as a look into the mind of the man behind the rampage.

Although investigators initially believed that there were multiple shooters due to both the amount of gunfire and the strategic angles the gunfire came from, it was found from both social media accounts and video taken from multiple cameras, that Long was the lone gunman. The investigation, that would have taken months to breakdown in the past, was put together with the help of social media in an incredibly short amount of time. Motives, the gunman's background, and his thought process were on full display in the online world.

As law enforcement tools continue to evolve, the use of social media as a tool in solving crimes will be a fundamental building block of any department. The ability to have officers and experts devoted to social media listening will be crucial. Most departments have made great advancements on this front in recent years, but with the constant evolution of social media platforms, organizations will need to continue to keep pace. Long, for example, was active in a wide variety of different media venues under many different names. Communication of these online threats, as well as in-depth knowledge of social media systems, are important law enforcement tools of the 21st century.

Back to Law Enforcement | Back to All Categories