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August 23, 2012

Extremist-Related Police Killings Continue to Mount

The recent shootings in St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana, in which two officers were killed and two more injured, highlight the continuing danger domestic extremists pose to officer safety in the United States. Research by the Anti-Defamation League has found that at least one of the suspects has ideological leanings that would put him within the overarching anti-government “Patriot” movement.

The Louisiana shootings were unfortunately only the latest in a series of lethal encounters in the United States between law enforcement officers and domestic extremists.  Earlier this year, six police officers were shot, one fatally, in Ogden, Utah, after police entered a residence to execute a search warrant. Information from the search warrant affidavit strongly suggests that the suspect, David Stewart, was an anti-government extremist.  In 2010, two people associated with the sovereign citizen movement killed two East Memphis police officers and wounded two other officers in a pair of shootouts.

All in all, at least 28 officers have been killed since 2001 in encounters with extremists from one movement or another. The killings have ranged from incidents in which police officers were deliberately targeted by extremists to situations in which police officers happened to encounter extremists engaging in ideological or non-ideological criminal activity.

Overwhelmingly, the perpetrators or suspects in these lethal incidents have been right-wing extremists, adherents of one or another of the primary white supremacist movements or anti-government extremist movements active in the United States today.  This is part of a long-term trend since the 1980s, in which right-wing extremists gradually replaced left-wing extremists as the main source of extremist-related officer killings in the United States.  Though the figures here are solely for fatalities, anecdotal evidence suggests that the same trends hold for non-lethal extremist-related attacks on police officers as well.

The resurgence of right-wing extremism in the United States since 2009 has undoubtedly contributed to the level of violence:  between 2009 and 2012, eight of nine extremist-related officer deaths have been linked to right-wing extremists.

Among right-wing extremists, anti-government extremists have been the most lethal in recent years, perpetrating or suspected of having perpetrated half of the extremist-related officer deaths this century.  However, white supremacists have slain nearly as many officers in the same time period and, in a practical sense, represent virtually the same level of threat to officer safety.

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August 17, 2012

Possible Extremist Connection to Louisiana Police Shootings

Two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies were killed on Thursday in LaPlace in two separate but related incidents.  One or more of the suspects in the killings may have ties to extremism.

Terry Lyn Smith

The first shooting incident occurred at a Valero corporation facility, when a gunman opened fire on a St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s deputy, wounding him.  Deputies followed a vehicle to a trailer park.  However, another person exited a nearby trailer with an assault rifle and opened fire on the officers.  Two deputies were killed and another was wounded.

Seven people have been arrested in connection with the murders:  Terry Lyn Smith, 44; Brian Lyn Smith, 24; Derrick Smith, 22; Chanel Skains, 37; Kyle David Joekel, 28; Teniecha Bright, 21; and Brittney Keith, 23.  All except Keith and Skains have been charged with principal to attempted first degree murder of a police officer.  Keith and Skains face charges of being accessories after the fact to attempted first degree murder of a police officer.

Reports emerged in early media coverage from law enforcement sources that one or more of the people arrested may be involved with an extremist group or movement, including possibly the extreme anti-government sovereign citizen movement.   Authorities in Nebraska have said that Joekel was on an FBI watchlist.  Joekel is wanted in Nebraska and Kansas on marijuana charges and on allegation of making terroristic threats regarding attacking law enforcement officers.  In June 2012, while still a fugitive, Joekel posted his resume as a welder and pipefitter to an on-line jobs site, including an address and phone number.  Terry Lyn Smith is also a pipefitter.

The suspects had recently been under police surveillance in DeSoto Parish after the sheriff’s office had received reports of people at a trailer park entering and leaving vehicles with assault weapons.  However, they left the trailer park in June.

As of this writing, no information has emerged to clearly confirm the allegations of sovereign citizen connections, but one of the suspects, Terry Lyn Smith, has indicators of anti-government extremist leanings on his various social networking profiles.  In particular, on a Myspace profile Smith lists, as either “heroes” or people he’d “like to meet,” Alex Jones, the Texas-based conspiracy-oriented and anti-government radio talk show host; Randy Weaver, the white supremacist at the center of the 1992 Ruby Ridge, Idaho, standoff; and David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians during the 1993 Waco, Texas, standoff.   Those two standoffs were the main sparks for the resurgence of right-wing extremism in the mid-to-late 1990s, including the Oklahoma City bombing.

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