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June 17, 2016 2

Alleged Triple Killer had Extreme Anti-Government Views

Erick ShuteOn June 14, Penn­syl­va­nia author­i­ties caught and arrested a fugi­tive accused of hav­ing shot and killed three of his neigh­bors in West Vir­ginia the pre­vi­ous day. Erick Shute, 29, who allegedly had a long-running series of dis­putes with the neigh­bors, report­edly attacked the three (and a fourth who escaped) over a con­flict about firewood.

Shute was a minor pub­lic fig­ure as the vocal­ist for the long­stand­ing death metal band Pyrexia, with which he had report­edly been involved since child­hood. He also worked as a fire and water dam­age restorer in New Jer­sey and was involved with a vari­ety of odd busi­ness ven­tures, involv­ing crowd­sourc­ing, dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies, and multi-level mar­ket­ing, among others.

After the slay­ings, a woman who described her­self as “one of his ex girl­friends” posted on-line that “he has never been [one] for the police or gov­ern­ment.” That seems to have been a seri­ous under­state­ment. West Vir­ginia author­i­ties claimed that Shute was an adher­ent of the extreme anti-government sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment and even sug­gested that he was build­ing a com­pound on the West Vir­ginia land report­edly pur­chased by his mother and used as a week­end home by Shute. Author­i­ties have said they found stock­piles of food, weapons and ammo on the prop­erty, as well as “bunkers.”

Actu­ally, Shute’s involve­ment with anti-government extrem­ism appears to have been more exten­sive than just the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Rather, to vary­ing degrees, Shute iden­ti­fied with all three major wings of the anti-government “Patriot” move­ment: the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, the tax protest move­ment, and the mili­tia move­ment. Shute was also sup­port­ive to some degree of anar­chism, which is also anti-government, though from a more left-leaning perspective.

Shute’s old­est known extrem­ist ties do relate to the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. While liv­ing with his mother in New Jer­sey dur­ing the period 2009-11, he sub­scribed to sev­eral sov­er­eign cit­i­zen beliefs, espe­cially those reject­ing the legit­i­macy of motor vehi­cle laws. In 2011, he tried to get a local police depart­ment to sign a “peace treaty” with him that would some­how allow him not to have a license or reg­is­tra­tion. This visit led to his arrest for dri­ving a vehi­cle with no license plates as well as charges of aggra­vated assault on a police offi­cer, resist­ing arrest, and obstruc­tion. Based on a court­room video he uploaded to the Inter­net, Shute seems to have defended him­self in court—as many sov­er­eign cit­i­zens do—claiming that the judge in his case was not a judge but an “exec­u­tive admin­is­tra­tor” and that there had been no judi­cial courts in Amer­ica for cen­turies. Shute was con­victed and spent half a year in jail.

Shute also became involved to at least some degree with the tax protest move­ment, which claims that a con­spir­acy is hid­ing the “fact” that most Amer­i­cans don’t have to pay income taxes. He engaged in argu­men­ta­tive phone calls with IRS rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sent hos­tile let­ters to the IRS as late as 2015 claim­ing that he had been given no “proof” he was required to file an income tax return or that the IRS had juris­dic­tion over him. Judg­ing by some of his on-line remarks, he may not have been pay­ing income taxes for more than five years.

In recent years, how­ever, Shute seems to have iden­ti­fied most strongly with the ideas of the mili­tia move­ment. The mili­tia move­ment believes that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is col­lab­o­rat­ing with a “New World Order” glob­al­ist con­spir­acy to strip Amer­i­cans of their rights and enslave them. Sub­sidiary con­spir­acy the­o­ries ema­nat­ing from the move­ment include a belief that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to round up cit­i­zens and place them in intern­ment or con­cen­tra­tion camps; a belief that the gov­ern­ment is plot­ting to sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion and declare mar­tial law, per­haps on a pre­text such as a ter­ror­ist attack or pan­demic; and that the gov­ern­ment will engage in mass gun confiscations—among others.

Mili­tia move­ment adher­ents oppose this per­ceived gov­ern­ment con­spir­acy. Many, though by no means all, join para­mil­i­tary mili­tia groups. Though Shute “liked” a num­ber of mili­tia groups on his Face­book pages, he does not seem to have joined a for­mal group himself.

How­ever, Shute’s on-line state­ments clearly indi­cate an adher­ence to the movement’s ide­ol­ogy. Respond­ing to a con­spir­acy arti­cle about an employ­ment ad for a U.N. “dis­ar­ma­ment offi­cer,” Shute claimed in 2014 that any­one who took such a job “deserves to be killed” by some sort of “painful and hor­ri­fy­ing” man­ner such as being “eaten alive by dogs.” When the gov­er­nor of West Vir­ginia vetoed a per­mit­less carry firearms bill in 2015, Shute posted that “some­one needs to behead this mofo.”

In 2015, Shute expressed hap­pi­ness at the thought that police offi­cers might be among the first Amer­i­cans “to get put in intern­ment camps.” He also posted that he could not sup­port the troops “if the troops are train­ing to take you and me away into an intern­ment camp.” Like many other anti-government extrem­ists, Shute became out­raged at the mil­i­tary exer­cises held in the south­ern U.S. under the name “Oper­a­tion Jade Helm,” claim­ing that they were mar­tial law train­ing scenarios.

Shute, an avid fan of anti-government con­spir­acy web­sites such as InfoWars, believed in a wide array of stan­dard “Patriot” move­ment con­spir­acy the­o­ries, from air­planes using “chem­trails” to poi­son the Amer­i­can peo­ple to vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams being part of an agenda “to kill off mil­lions of peo­ple.” Shute even claimed to have tried to attend the 2012 Bilder­berg con­fer­ence in Chan­tilly, Vir­ginia, a mag­netic lure for con­spir­acy the­o­rists who believe that “Bilder­berg­ers” are part of an inter­na­tional conspiracy.

By 2015, it is clear that Shute had devel­oped extreme, and extremely para­noid, atti­tudes towards gov­ern­ment and law enforce­ment. In Feb­ru­ary, Shute stated that it was time “to pull the gov­ern­ment offi­cials out of their beds at night and hang them from the trees in their front yards.” Urg­ing peo­ple to “arm up,” Shute stated in March that every­body should have a gun in every room in their house and that they should even sleep with their guns, so that they would be ready to kill any police offi­cer who came through the door. “This is the time for war,” he wrote, “and if you don’t get pre­pared to fight, that’s your problem.”

In Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2016, Erick Shute became a sup­porter of the anti-government extrem­ists who engaged in an armed takeover of the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge in Ore­gon and sub­se­quent stand­off, even lis­ten­ing to the live broad­casts by the final few occu­piers in the last hours of the stand­off, before they were arrested. After their arrest, Shute wrote that he “loved” the occu­piers and that “even though we never met, I feel so close to these peo­ple now.”

Inci­dents such as these increased the already extreme hos­til­ity that Shute felt for law enforce­ment. Respond­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2016 to a news report of one offi­cer who had killed a dog, Shute urged that the offi­cer be tor­tured and mur­dered, includ­ing being hung over a fire, whipped, teeth and nails pulled out, fin­gers cut out, among many other vio­lent and grue­some meth­ods. Indeed, so hos­tile was Shute to law enforce­ment that he may have well posed a risk to local law enforce­ment as well as to his neighbors.

Shute will be extra­dited back to West Vir­ginia to face mul­ti­ple homi­cide charges.

 

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April 13, 2016 3

Firearms Increasingly Weapon of Choice in Extremist-Related Killings

extremistkillingswithfirearms1970-2015In the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion, the bomb is the weapon typ­i­cally asso­ci­ated with ter­ror­ists or extremists—but in the U.S. extrem­ists seem to be killing more peo­ple with firearms than with any other weapon, and that use may be increasing.

It is cer­tainly true that many of the high-profile ter­ror­ist attacks in the United States over the past cen­tury have been bomb­ings, includ­ing the 1919 anar­chist bomb­ing cam­paign, the 1963 16th Street Bap­tist Church bomb­ing, the 1995 bomb­ing of the Mur­rah Fed­eral Build­ing in Okla­homa City, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bomb­ing, among many oth­ers. Extrem­ist ser­ial bombers such as the Weather Under­ground, “Unabomber” Ted Kaczyn­ski, and Eric Rudolph have all got­ten their share of headlines.

How­ever, extrem­ists use a wide vari­ety of deadly imple­ments to com­mit their crimes, terrorist-related or oth­er­wise, from fists and boots to air­planes. The most com­mon tool of vio­lence seems to be the sim­ple firearm, a weapon that extrem­ists can use when com­mit­ting ter­ror­ist acts, hate crimes, assas­si­na­tions, armed rob­beries, and all man­ner of tra­di­tional crime. In the United States, firearms are easy to obtain and easy to use. Amer­i­can extrem­ists of all pos­si­ble types, from the far left to the far right, as well as reli­gious extrem­ists, have used firearms to com­mit deadly acts.

How com­mon is such firearms use in the United States? The Anti-Defamation League’s Cen­ter on Extrem­ism exam­ined 890 mur­ders com­mit­ted by domes­tic extrem­ists in the United States from 1970 through 2015—both ide­o­log­i­cal and non-ideological killings by extrem­ist perpetrators—and dis­cov­ered that around 55% of these killings involved use of a firearm; all other weapons com­bined made up the other 45%.

This fig­ure sig­ni­fies both the pop­u­lar­ity of firearms among extrem­ist move­ments in the United States, espe­cially right-wing extrem­ists, as well as the fact that attacks with other types of weapons may be less likely to end in death. Attacks using knives or fists, for exam­ple, may pos­si­bly result in non-fatal injuries more often than firearms. On the other end of the scale, bomb­ings are more dif­fi­cult to carry out—with many extrem­ist bomb­ing plots detected and pre­vented by law enforce­ment from ever being executed.

When one breaks down the num­bers by decade, it appears that, after a dip in the 1980s and 1990s, firearms are becom­ing more pop­u­lar than ever as the deadly weapons of choice for Amer­i­can extrem­ists. Not only have the num­bers of domestic-extremist related killings in the U.S. increased over the past 20 years, but so too has the fre­quency of firearms as the weapons in such killings.

In the 1970s, extremists—primarily com­ing from the far left—used firearms in 61% of domes­tic extremist-related killings in the United States. Many of these inci­dents involved mem­bers of left-wing extrem­ist groups such as the Black Pan­thers and the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army attack­ing police officers.

The per­cent­age of firearms use in extremist-related killings dipped in the 1980s, to only 46%, then dropped dras­ti­cally in the 1990s, down to 20%. This lat­ter fig­ure is greatly dis­torted by the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, which itself resulted in 168 deaths, but even if the bomb­ing were left out of the cal­cu­la­tions, the new num­ber would only be 42%. There are sev­eral rea­sons that seem to account for these lower fig­ures, includ­ing the rise of white suprema­cist prison gangs com­mit­ting mur­ders behind bars and the growth of the racist skin­head sub­cul­ture in the United States, whose adher­ents often eschewed firearms for beat­ing and stab­bing attacks.

How­ever, in the 2000s, firearms once more were the deadly weapons in the major­ity of killings, with 62% of the killings between 2001 and 2010 involv­ing one or more firearms. So far in the cur­rent decade, the per­cent­ages are even higher, with 72% of the domestic-extremist related deaths from 2011 through 2015 involv­ing firearms.

What accounts for this increase? Sev­eral fac­tors seem to have played a role. One is the increased use of firearms by sev­eral extrem­ist move­ments. Racist skin­heads seem to use firearms with greater fre­quency in the 2000s than they did in ear­lier decades, while the growth of white suprema­cist prison gang activ­ity on the streets—as opposed to behind bars—has allowed their mem­bers much greater access to and use of firearms.

Even more con­cern­ing is the appar­ent grav­i­ta­tion of domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists towards firearms as a weapon of choice. In the early years of this move­ment, fol­low­ing the 2003 U.S. inva­sion of Iraq, much of the energy of those extrem­ists with vio­lent impulses were directed at elab­o­rate plots involv­ing bombs or even mil­i­tary weapons—plots typ­i­cally stopped by law enforce­ment before they could ever be car­ried out.

Since 2009, how­ever, there have been a num­ber of high-profile inci­dents in which Islamic extrem­ists have used firearms to con­duct shoot­ings (and one instance, the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, where the per­pe­tra­tors used both bombs and firearms), includ­ing shoot­ings at Ft. Hood, Texas; Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas; Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee; and San Bernardino, California.

The rise of ISIS in the past sev­eral years may have con­tributed to the increase in attempted small arms attacks; Al Qaeda gen­er­ally favored high-spectacle and sym­bolic attacks, whereas ISIS has been more prac­ti­cal, urg­ing adher­ents to com­mit any attack they think they can pull off.

Most of the Islamic-related shoot­ings were mass shoot­ings, which may be the final piece of the puz­zle. Though most extrem­ist killings con­tinue to take one vic­tim at a time, the num­ber of mul­ti­ple vic­tims in deadly extremist-related inci­dents (both ide­o­log­i­cal and non-ideological) has cer­tainly grown. Since 2001, there have been 24 domes­tic extrem­ist inci­dents in which at least three peo­ple were killed—and firearms were the weapons used in the vast major­ity of these cases, includ­ing such deadly shoot­ing sprees as the 2012 Wis­con­sin Sikh tem­ple shoot­ing and the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

The increased num­ber of mul­ti­ple vic­tim inci­dents by extrem­ists is also one of the rea­sons why the death toll has been ris­ing. From extrem­ists on the right such as white suprema­cists and anti-government extrem­ists to reli­gious extrem­ists such as domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, gun vio­lence seems more likely to increase than decrease in the com­ing months and years

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September 1, 2015 0

Deadly Violence, Plots Mark Right-Wing Extremist Courtroom Dramas

Judges and juries in Kansas, Cal­i­for­nia and Geor­gia have ruled in a trio of impor­tant crim­i­nal cases involv­ing white suprema­cists, anti-government sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, and mili­tia groups who engaged in vio­lence or conspiracies.

Brent Douglas Cole

Brent Dou­glas Cole

On Mon­day, August 31, a jury in Olathe, Kansas, con­victed long-time white suprema­cist Fra­zier Glenn Miller (also known as Fra­zier Glenn Cross) on cap­i­tal mur­der, attempted mur­der, assault and weapons charges for his 2014 shoot­ing attack that killed three at Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in the Kansas City sub­urb of Over­land Park.

Miller, who defended him­self, attempted to argue dur­ing his trial that he was jus­ti­fied in killing Jews, because they were com­mit­ting “geno­cide” against white peo­ple. After the jury read its ver­dict, Miller shouted “Sieg Heil,” while giv­ing a Nazi salute.

In fed­eral court in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, mean­while, another extrem­ist learned of his fate. Brent Dou­glas Cole, an adher­ent of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, received a 29-year, seven-month sen­tence for his role in a shootout in 2014. Sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that the gov­ern­ment is ille­git­i­mate, because a con­spir­acy long ago sub­verted the orig­i­nal gov­ern­ment and replaced it with a tyran­ni­cal one, and that it has no author­ity over them.

In June 214, a Bureau of Land Man­age­ment ranger dis­cov­ered Cole had set up a camp­site on pub­lic land and had a motor­cy­cle at the camp­site that had been reported stolen. When the ranger and a Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol offi­cer attempted to impound that motor­cy­cle, as well as one with expired tags, Cole con­fronted the offi­cers. When one attempted to place hand­cuffs on Cole, the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen opened fire on the offi­cers, injur­ing both of them, before sub­se­quently giv­ing him­self up. He was con­victed in Feb­ru­ary 2015 of assault on a fed­eral offi­cer which inflicted bod­ily injury and other charges.

Finally, a fed­eral judge in Atlanta, Geor­gia, sen­tenced three mem­bers of a mili­tia group to prison after they pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to use weapons of mass destruc­tion. Brian Can­non, Terry Peace and Cory Williamson were mem­bers of a north Geor­gia mili­tia cell that plot­ted ter­ror­ist attacks against the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency and other gov­ern­ment tar­gets, hop­ing that the gov­ern­ment would over-react and, in turn, cause mili­tia groups around the coun­try to rise up in arms.

After an asso­ciate of the three men alerted the FBI to the plot­ters’ inten­tions, the FBI set up a sting oper­a­tion. After Peace told the infor­mant that he needed ther­mite charges and pipe bombs, the infor­mant offered to get the explo­sives for him. In Feb­ru­ary 2014, FBI agents arrested the trio of mili­ti­a­men as the received the (inert) explo­sive devices from the infor­mant. Their would-be rev­o­lu­tion was thwarted.

In many respects, these three inci­dents col­lec­tively high­light the major dan­gers com­ing from the extreme right in the 21st Cen­tury. Miller engaged in a deadly attack directed against Jews, a per­ceived “racial enemy.” The shoot­ing spree pre­saged the even more deadly attack against African-Americans by Dylann Storm Roof in June 2015. Cole engaged in unplanned, spon­ta­neous vio­lence against law enforce­ment officers—one of the major threats posed by the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. And the mili­ti­a­men in North Geor­gia engaged in a con­spir­acy to attack gov­ern­ment tar­gets; just the lat­est in a long series of such plots and con­spir­a­cies stem­ming from the mili­tia movement.

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