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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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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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June 7, 2016

Attacks Against Police Are Not Hate Crimes

The Anti-Defamation League and many other groups have deep concerns about a new Louisiana statute – the so-called “Blue Lives Matter” law – that inserts police and firefighters into the state’s hate crime law.    ADL is proud of the special connections and joint initiatives we have with the law enforcement community.  As the non-governmental agency that works most closely with and trains more state and local police and federal law enforcement officials than anyone else, we strongly support laws that deter attacks against police.  In Louisiana – and nearly every other state – an assault against a police officer is already a serious crime, carrying a more severe penalty than an assault against a civilian.  Therefore, Louisiana’s new “Blue Lives Matter” law is unnecessary, and could even make it more difficult to prosecute attacks against police.

Police groupHate crimes target individuals or institutions because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or gender identity, focus on personal characteristics.  They are designed to intimidate the victim and members of the victim’s community, leaving them feeling fearful, isolated, vulnerable, and unprotected by the law.   These incidents can damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities.

Crimes against police also, obviously, have a serious and deeply harmful community impact.   But adding police – or any other category based on vocation or employment – confuses the purpose of hate crime laws, and threatens to make crimes against police more difficult to prove.  If police are included in hate crime laws, prosecutors would face the additional requirement of having to prove both that the perpetrator attacked the officer – and that the act was committed because he/she was a police officer.  That additional intent requirement, which is not included in existing laws covering attacks on police officers, would make prosecutions more difficult, not easier.

While there is widespread documentation that hate crimes based on personal characteristics are downplayed and underreported, there is no evidence that prosecutors anywhere in the country are failing to vigorously investigate and prosecute crimes against police.  To further highlight their serious treatment, the FBI specially tracks and prepares an annual report on these crimes,

Louisiana should reconsider, and its statute should not be replicated by other states.

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