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June 24, 2016 2

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 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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March 21, 2016 4

Winston Shrout: The Rise and Fall of a Sovereign Citizen Guru

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Port­land, Ore­gon, obtained a 19-count grand jury indict­ment in mid-March against Win­ston Shrout, a Hills­boro, Ore­gon, res­i­dent and one of the most promi­nent sov­er­eign cit­i­zen gurus in the United States, a man whose videos and sem­i­nars have attracted thou­sands of peo­ple to the anti-government extrem­ist movement.

Winston Shrout

Win­ston Shrout

Shrout was charged with 13 counts of using fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments in con­nec­tion with an alleged debt elim­i­na­tion scheme. Fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments are bogus checks, money orders, or sim­i­lar doc­u­ments that pur­port to be pay­ments of money but are not in fact gen­uine. Since the early 1980s, sov­er­eign cit­i­zens have been fas­ci­nated with fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments, using them for every­thing from escap­ing their own debts to per­pe­trat­ing major frauds and scams, espe­cially against indebted prop­erty own­ers. Pass­ing them became a fed­eral crime thanks to a law passed after the 1996 Mon­tana Freemen stand­off; the Freemen hav­ing been ener­getic pro­mot­ers of such bogus instruments.

Debt elim­i­na­tion schemes are also extremely com­mon within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment; sov­er­eigns use their pseudo-legal lan­guage and con­cepts to con­vince vic­tims that, for a fee, their mort­gages or other debts can sim­ply be made to van­ish. Often, fic­ti­tious finan­cial instru­ments and debt elim­i­na­tion schemes go hand in hand.

The fed­eral indict­ment accuses Shrout of cre­at­ing and spread­ing more than 300 bogus “Inter­na­tional Bills of Exchange” and “Non-Negotiable Bills of Exchange,” instru­ments with a com­bined face value of over $100 tril­lion (but worth­less in fact). The indict­ment claims that Shrout used such instru­ments him­self and also mar­keted them as a way for oth­ers to pay off their debts. Shrout is also charged with 6 counts of will­ful fail­ure to file income tax returns.

The indict­ment is a super­sed­ing indict­ment, adding the fic­ti­tious instru­ment charges to the tax charges, which were orig­i­nally filed against Shrout in Decem­ber 2015. Since that orig­i­nal indict­ment, Shrout has declined to use an attorney—a com­mon tac­tic for sovereigns—and has defended him­self using sov­er­eign cit­i­zen fil­ings that, among other things, declare his refusal to con­sent to the juris­dic­tion of the fed­eral court or to be taxed by the IRS.

Shrout, 67, has been one of the most influ­en­tial lead­ers of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment in the 21st cen­tury. Sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that, long ago, an evil con­spir­acy infil­trated and replaced the orig­i­nal “de jure” gov­ern­ment with an ille­git­i­mate, tyran­ni­cal “de facto” gov­ern­ment. They claim that the “de facto” gov­ern­ment has no author­ity or juris­dic­tion over them, which allows them to ratio­nal­ize ignor­ing or break­ing vir­tu­ally any tax, law, reg­u­la­tion, or court order. The move­ment is dom­i­nated by a coterie of gurus, the peo­ple who come up with the movement’s pseudo-legal theories—as well as its often-illegal tactics—and teach them to their followers.

Shrout grew up in Ken­tucky but resided in Utah for much of his life before finally mov­ing to Ore­gon. Shrout has said he is a col­lege grad­u­ate but worked var­i­ous blue-collar jobs such as car­pen­ter, welder, and con­struc­tion worker until 1998, when, as he put it, “as luck would have it I was able to retire.”

Fol­low­ing this early “retire­ment,” Shrout encoun­tered the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment at a time when it was enjoy­ing a burst of pop­u­lar­ity. This was due to a new com­pi­la­tion of sov­er­eign cit­i­zen the­o­ries and tac­tics, often referred to as “redemp­tion” or “straw man the­ory,” which swept through the move­ment in 1999 like a wild­fire and still remain quite pop­u­lar to this day. Long­time sov­er­eign cit­i­zen guru Roger Elvick came up with redemp­tion theory—acting on it would even­tu­ally land him in prison—and shared it with a group of dis­ci­ples who became gurus trav­el­ling the coun­try, hold­ing sem­i­nars and sell­ing man­u­als and videos explain­ing redemp­tion the­ory and its var­i­ous asso­ci­ated tac­tics. Many of those dis­ci­ples are now them­selves in fed­eral or state prison.

Shrout has at times seemed to imply that he learned redemp­tion the­ory from Roger Elvick, but Shrout’s ear­li­est sov­er­eign cit­i­zen fil­ings appear to date from 2000, by which time redemp­tion the­ory was already quite pop­u­lar in the move­ment. In August 2000, he filed a nota­rized doc­u­ment explaining—in sov­er­eign cit­i­zen pseudo-legalese—how he had refused to sign or accept a traf­fic cita­tion from a Wash­ing­ton County, Utah, sheriff’s deputy.

Two months later, Shrout filed his first bogus lien—a com­mon harass­ing tac­tic that sov­er­eigns use against per­ceived oppo­nents or ene­mies. Shrout filed a $1,340,000 lien dubbed an “Affi­davit of Oblig­a­tion” against Uni­fied Indus­tries, Inc., which is a cor­po­ra­tion that holds resources and busi­ness enter­prises asso­ci­ated with the Apos­tolic United Brethren (AUB), one of the major fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mon polyg­a­mist sects in Utah. The lien stemmed from some sort of dis­pute Shrout had with El Ran­cho Moto­qua, a sub­sidiary com­pany of Uni­fied Indus­tries estab­lished to cre­ate a polyg­a­mist com­mu­nity in south­ern Utah. In such com­mu­ni­ties, prop­er­ties are often not owned by indi­vid­ual busi­ness own­ers or res­i­dents but rather by a hold­ing com­pany or trust run by the sect. Shrout seems to have been per­mit­ted a res­i­dence in Moto­qua and came into con­flict with the polyg­a­mists run­ning the com­mu­nity. In the bogus lien, Shrout com­plained that he had been threat­ened with “removal” from his house and that he was “excluded from par­tic­i­pa­tion in the reli­gious cer­e­monies and usages” held inside a com­mu­nity building.

Was Shrout him­self an adher­ent of the polyg­a­mist AUB? It is not entirely clear from the lien doc­u­ment, though at one point Shrout refers to him­self “and sev­eral thou­sand other fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mons.” How­ever, non-adherents have some­times resided in AUB com­mu­ni­ties. Some adher­ents of polyg­a­mists sects have got­ten involved with the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Shrout’s step­daugh­ter, April Ramp­ton, was a res­i­dent of Moto­qua as late as 2012, before she her­self was con­victed in fed­eral court on nine counts of fil­ing false tax claims while engaged in a com­mon sov­er­eign cit­i­zen and tax protest scheme.

Before the end of 2000, Shrout filed a series of redemption-related doc­u­ments and he soon became a redemp­tion guru, teach­ing the the­ory to sov­er­eign audi­ences. In 2004, Shrout and Patri­cia Bekken formed an entity called Solu­tions in Com­merce to mar­ket sov­er­eign sem­i­nars and work­shops. Shrout proved to be a pop­u­lar speaker, with a folksy demeanor that he delib­er­ately played up, refer­ring to it once as “hill­billy shtick.” The debt elim­i­na­tion schemes that Shrout pro­moted were also pop­u­lar; one admir­ing extrem­ist in 2004 referred to Shrout as a “top dawg” among such promoters.

Shrout’s rep­u­ta­tion within the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment grew in the mid-2000s, but it was the social media rev­o­lu­tion that really helped pro­pel him to the top ranks of sov­er­eign gurus, as YouTube videos of some of his appear­ances and sem­i­nars began to cir­cu­late widely by 2008–2009, bring­ing him far greater atten­tion and pop­u­lar­ity. This same time period cor­re­sponded with the begin­nings of the great reces­sion and the mort­gage cri­sis, events that helped spawn a major resur­gence of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment by cre­at­ing a large pool of angry and des­per­ate peo­ple who were poten­tial recruits.

Shrout held sem­i­nars across the coun­try but hardly lim­ited his activ­i­ties to the United States. In the 1990s, the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment had taken root in Canada, so Shrout spoke to atten­tive audi­ences in that nation—until Cana­dian author­i­ties finally pro­hib­ited him from enter­ing the coun­try. But Shrout found other inter­na­tional audi­ences, hold­ing sem­i­nars in Aus­tralia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, help­ing to bring the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment to all of those countries—to the dis­may of authorities.

More recently, Shrout expanded beyond strictly sov­er­eign notions to express him­self on UFOs and other “New Age” issues, claim­ing that in the early 2000s he and friends of his have been vis­ited by alien “Pleia­di­ans.” He’s made ref­er­ences to every­thing from incar­nated fairies to “Hol­low Earth” the­ory. Sev­eral years ago, Shrout set up a new web­site, dubbed Exo-Commerce, to pro­vide “insight from a uni­ver­sal per­spec­tive,” which appears to be an attempt to blend sov­er­eign cit­i­zen the­o­ries and tac­tics with “New Age” beliefs. It is dif­fi­cult to deter­mine whether these are sin­cerely held beliefs or merely a cyn­i­cal attempt on the part of Shrout to expand to another gullible audience.

The new fed­eral charges against Shrout could put an end to such oppor­tunism, cyn­i­cal or sin­cere. If con­victed on all charges, Shrout may face what could be an effec­tive life sentence.

 

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