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July 19, 2016

Alarming Rate of Extremist Related Shootouts with Police in 2016

Since January 2009, ADL has tracked 70 incidents in which shots were fired between police and domestic ideological extremists.  Eighty-four percent of those involved were purveyors of extreme right-wing ideologies. Type of Extreme Ideology 2009 to present

The July 17 attack on Baton Rouge police marks the ninth such incident this year.  With nine incidents year-to-date, verses a full-year average of 8.5 for the past seven years (2009-2015), these incidents are occurring at an alarming rate. They are on pace to match the spike of such incidents which occurred in 2013.

This year’s incidents have involved a wide-range of ideological extremists, including anti-government extremists, white supremacists, Islamic extremists and left-wing extremists.

Incident summaries for 2016:

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July: Gavin Eugene Long, who had con­nec­tions with the “Moor­ish move­ment,” an offshoot of the anti-government extrem­ist sov­er­eign cit­i­zen movement, was killed by a Baton Rouge SWAT team member after he ambushed officers responding to a call of a suspicious person with an assault rifle. The shootout started when three officers, Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola, confronted Long near a convenience store. Long opened fire on the officers, immediately striking Jackson and Gerald, and shooting Garafola as he tried to assisted the two wounded officers. All three officers died. Long continued to engage responding police in shootouts, wounding three additional officers.  The shootout ended when a member of the Baton Rouge SWAT team shot and killed Long from approximately 100 yards away.

Dallas, Texas, July: Micah Xavier Johnson, who expressed interest in and had some ties to militant Black Nationalist groups, was killed by a police during a stand-off after he ambushed a group of police officers during a protest in Dallas, Texas. Wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three weapons, Johnson killed five officers and injured nine others. Two bystanders were also wounded. During the shootout Johnson moved from location to location, exchanging gunfire with at least 12 different police officers. After an hourslong standoff, in which Johnson reportedly laughed, sang, and said that he wanted to kill white people, especially white police, he was killed by a police deployed bomb-carrying robot.

Orlando, Florida, June: Omar Mateen, who pledged alle­giance to ISIS and called the Boston marathon bombers his “home­boys,” opened fire on the patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 and wounding more than 50. After the initial attack, Mateen took hostages, resulting in a three-hour standoff which ended when police entered the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades. Mateen was killed in the following shootout. One officer was shot in the head and suffered an eye injury. by year

Dooley County, Georgia, April: White supremacist Joseph J. Harper died after a shootout with law enforcement officers who were at his home with a court order to collect property awarded to Harper’s ex-wife. Armed with several weapons, and wearing a gas mask and body armor, Harper allegedly pointed a shotgun at Dooley County deputies who were attempting to retrieve the property. The deputies retreated and called in the Tri-County SRT Team with support from the Georgia State Patrol and Lowndes County SWAT teams, and obtained an arrest warrant for aggravated assault.  During the lengthy standoff that followed, Harper moved in and out of the home firing rounds at the deputies and SWAT Team who returned fire at least once. After hearing a shotgun blast inside the home, the SWAT team fired canisters of gas and non-lethal deterrents in to the home.  A short time later a SWAT operated robot found Harper dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Mobile, Alabama, April: Mobile police arrested white supremacist gang member Ryan Burkhardt after he instigated a shootout with police. According to the Mobile police chief, Burkhardt shot at undercover officers who were attempting to arrest him after he allegedly sold them handguns and illegal drugs.  Burkhardt allegedly first attempted to flee on his motorcycle, but was forced to run on foot after he crashed his motorcycle. As he ran to a nearby field, he fired multiple shots at pursuing officers striking one in the abdomen and thigh.  The officers returned fire striking Burkhardt twice.  Burkhardt, a member of the Mississippi Aryan Brotherhood, faces five counts of attempted murder, attempting to elude police, and carry a pistol without a permit.

Crocket, Texas, March: Members of the Crocket police department arrested a man and woman with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood after they shot at police during a car chase. Police encountered Earl Davis Williams and Kayleigh Anne Davis, both of Georgia, after responding to call to a trailer park about a man trying to break into trailers. As officers arrived they saw the vehicle leaving and stopped it. As one officer was speaking with the occupants, another officer called out an alarm that an occupant was armed with a shotgun, and the driver sped away.  During the subsequent chase the passenger shot out the back window of their vehicle and shot two Crockett county patrol cars in pursuit. Both Williams and Davis were arrested after they crashed their car and fled on foot.  The officers were not injured.

Evans, Colorado, February:  Luke Miller, a wanted felon and a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was killed by police after he shot at a police officer and ignored commands to drop his weapon. Officers with the Evans Police Department first encountered Miller when they approached two suspicious men in a secluded area while responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle in the area.  One of the men, later identified as Miller, fled on foot and later shot at one of the officers during a 90-minute multi-agency search.  Eventually cornered by officers, Miller was shot after he again raised his gun at police and yelled, “Shoot me. Kill me.”

Burns, Oregon, January:  Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, one of the anti-government extremists involved in the January 2nd armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters near Burns, Oregon, was fatally wounded by Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers during an attempt by the OSP and the FBI to arrest Finicum and a number of key occupiers. Finicum was shot after he fled a traffic stop, exited his vehicle in a snow bank, and reached for a weapon in his pocket.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January: Edward Archer reportedly approached Philadelphia police officer Jesse Hartnett’s patrol car, and using a stolen semi-automatic handgun, fired at least 13 shots directly into the driver-side area of the vehicle. Archer reportedly told police his allegiance was to ISIS and believed that police defend laws contrary to the teachings of the Qu’ran.

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July 18, 2016

The Washitaw Nation and Moorish Sovereign Citizens: What You Need to Know

GavinLongAfter authorities identified Gavin Eugene Long as the man who shot and killed three police officers from Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge on July 17, unconfirmed media reports claimed that Long (who also used the name Cosmo Setepenra) had connections with the anti-government extremist sovereign citizen movement.

Sovereign citizens believe that a conspiracy subverted and replaced the original U.S. government with an illegitimate “de facto” government, but that people can take steps to divorce themselves from the illegitimate government, after which its laws, taxes, regulations and courts have no more authority over them.

These rumors were soon confirmed—though it is clear that Long’s beliefs also extend far beyond the sovereign citizen movement into other areas as well—with the Kansas City Star unearthing sovereign citizen documents filed by Long that indicated an affiliation with the “Washitaw Nation,” one of many concepts associated with the so-called “Moorish movement,” or “Moorish sovereign movement,” an offshoot of the sovereign citizen movement that combines longstanding sovereign citizen beliefs and tactics with some newer, primarily Afrocentric notions.

Moorish sovereign citizens emerged in the mid-1990s on the East Coast when some people began to merge sovereign citizen ideas with some of the beliefs of the Moorish Science Temple, a religious sect dating back to 1913.  As sovereign citizen notions attracted more Moorish Science Temple adherents, the Moorish sovereign movement was born.  While still retaining most “traditional” sovereign citizen pseudo-historical and pseudo-legal theories, Moorish sovereigns added new ideas, including the notion that African-Americans had special rights because of a 1780s treaty with Morocco, as well as the belief that African-Americans were descended from African “Moors”—and often as well the belief that African-Americans were also a people indigenous to the Americas.

WashitawNationBookThrough the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Moorish sovereign citizen movement grew, generating a large number of groups and gurus to promote Moorish sovereign ideas, it also absorbed other black sovereign groups that had begun independently.  The most important of these was the Washitaw Nation, which began in the mid-1990s in Louisiana, started by the “Empress” Verdiacee “Tiara” Washitaw-Turner Goston El-Bey, who claimed to head the Washitaw Empire.  Washitaw Nation adherents claimed to be descended from the ancient mound-builders of the Mississippi-Missouri Valley and to actually own the Louisiana Purchase.

After the “Empress” retired, the original Washitaw group fell apart, replaced with a variety of different groups and individuals taking up the “Washitaw Nation” mantle.  So today there is not just one “Washitaw Nation,” but many, making it one of the most important wings of the Moorish sovereign citizen movement.

Since 2009, the sovereign citizen movement has experienced a major resurgence, including among African-Americans.  Both Moorish and non-Moorish sovereign citizen ideas have spread rapidly within the African-American community, aided by social media websites such as YouTube and Facebook.   Moorish and non-Moorish sovereign ideas alike have also spread in prisons and jails across the country.

Most sovereign citizens are still white, but in a number of cities with large African-American populations such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and others, African-Americans now comprise the majority of sovereign citizens.  Moorish sovereign citizens can today be found in any area with a substantial African-American population.

Key Attributes of the Moorish Sovereign Citizen Movement

  • Moorish sovereign citizens engage in the same criminal activities as “traditional” sovereign citizens do, including crimes of violence (including against police); scams and frauds; and so-called “paper terrorism” tactics, which typically involves the use of various documents and filings to harass, intimidate and retaliate against police officers, public officials, and others.
  • There is still much overlap between the Moorish sovereign citizen movement and the Moorish Science Temple (one reason many Moorish sovereigns add the words –El or –Bey to their names), but not all Moorish Science Temple adherents are sovereign citizens and some vocally oppose sovereign beliefs.
  • There are also African-American sovereign citizens who do not adopt specifically Moorish sovereign beliefs but only “traditional” sovereign citizen notions.
  • Many Moorish sovereign citizens also promote various Afrocentric “New Age” beliefs and concepts.
  • Though the Moorish sovereign movement is primarily African-American in composition, there are a few white people associated with Moorish groups.  Moreover, Moorish sovereign citizens are not necessarily black separatists nor necessarily connected with other black extremist groups (though there is a small amount of overlap).
  • Like traditional sovereign citizens, Moorish sovereign citizens are heavily reliant upon sovereign “gurus,” who come up with and promote the movement’s ideas and tactics.  Some prominent Moorish sovereign gurus include Taj Tarik Bey; Abdul Ali Muhammad Bey; Queen Vallahra Renita EL Harre,Bey; Irving “Hendo” Henderson; and Washitaw Nation figures Wendy Farica Washitaw and Fredrix “Joe” Washington (granddaughter and son of the “Empress” Verdiacee), among others. Many Moorish sovereign citizens may also follow “traditional” sovereign gurus; of these, David-Wynn Miller seems to be rather influential among some Moorish sovereigns.

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June 24, 2016

Law Enforcement: Standing in the Line of Fire

The recent attack on the les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) com­mu­nity in Orlando that left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded is yet another example of law enforcement standing in the line of fire in the fight against domestic extremism.

From 2009 to the present, at least 64 members of law enforcement have been shot by domestic extremists–including anti-government extrem­ists, white suprema­cists, domes­tic Mus­lim extrem­ists and oth­ers. Eighteen of those shootings were fatal. Additional officers might have lost their lives had they not been wearing protective vests or, as in the case of the Orlando attack, a Kevlar helmet.

Since January 2009, ADL has tracked 68 separate incidents (including seven so far this year) in which shots have been fired between domestic extremists and law enforcement in the United States. These inci­dents include sit­u­a­tions in which shots were exchanged between police and extrem­ists (shootouts), sit­u­a­tions in which extrem­ists have fired at police but police sub­dued the extrem­ists with­out hav­ing to return fire, and sit­u­a­tions in which offi­cers had to use their firearms to pro­tect them­selves against extremists.

The motivations that led the extremists to violence during these encounters vary. Many were simply trying to escape after police officers caught them engaged in criminal behavior unrelated to their extremist ideology. For others the encounter with police became the catalyst for violent ideological action. In some cases, violence escalated to a “last stand” situation in which the extremist(s) had to have known their actions would likely result in their own deaths. The most disturbing incidents, however, are those (like the Orlando attack) in which the encounter occurred as police responded to and confronted extremists who were in the midst of a directed and planned attack. TW-TargetsofAttacks

Fifteen (22%) of the 68 extremist encounters with law enforcement were the result of direct attacks by the extremists. In other words, these encounters started purely due to the extremist’s ideology. In six of those cases, the extremist(s) conducted planned attacks on civilians–including the LGBT community in Florida, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, and employees of the Transportation Security Administration at the Los Angeles airport. In seven cases, the initial attack was directed at law enforcement, and resulted in the assassinations of three officers. In January of this year, an additional officer miraculously survived an assassination attempt in Philadelphia. In the remaining two cases, extremists attacked members of the U.S. military.

Since 2009, officers have encountered domestic extremists in 28 different states. Several states have experienced multiple incidents. Texas law enforcement has endured 10 of the 68 encounters (nearly 15%). In four of the Texas cases, the extremist(s) were linked to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas or the Aryan Circle, demonstrating the state’s particular problem with large white supremacist prison gangs. In fact, members of racist prison gangs were involved in three of the seven shooting incidents which have already occurred this year—including encounters in Texas, Alabama and Colorado.

Florida has withstood the second highest number of incidents, reaching eight encounters with the addition of the Orlando attack. Colorado officials have faced five incidents, and suffered through the loss of Colorado Springs Officer Garrett Swasey. Swasey, the most recent law enforcement casualty at the hand of domestic extremists, died in the line of duty during a mass shooting by an anti-abortion extremist in November 2015 at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Unfortunately ideological extremists continue to add to the dangers faced by law enforcement. An untold number of lives were saved due to the efforts of the law enforcement officers who confronted the 76 extremists involved in these 68 incidents. These officers put themselves into dangerous situations in order to protect and serve the communities in which they live.


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