• July 19, 2024

Baton Rouge Police Attacker Claims He Was A “Sovereign Citizen”

The former Marine who killed three Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers identified with a growing movement that originated among white supremacists and whose adherents believe they’re immune to most state and federal laws, including paying taxes and getting driver’s licenses.

Gavin Long, a 29-year-old black man from Kansas City, Missouri, filed documents last year declaring himself a sovereign citizen, as a member of the United Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah. Members of the mostly black group, which was founded in Louisiana, claim the government has no control over them and that they own much of the Louisiana Purchase land. Members have sold fake licenses, passports, and license plates.

Nothing in that group’s ideology calls for violence, according to Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Potok added that he would hesitate to tie Long’s claimed connection to the Washitaw Nation with Sunday’s shooting because it appeared that Long was “shopping around” for an ideology, including once claiming he was a member of the Nation of Islam. Washitaw Nation spokesman, Fredrix Joe Washington, said he’d never heard of Long.

However, other individuals who have declared themselves sovereign citizens have become violent, including Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols. Several law enforcement officers also have been killed in the past 15 years, Potok said. He said it often happens during traffic stops because many members of sovereign citizen groups don’t carry a driver’s license or register their car.

One such incident took place in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 2010, when Sgt. Brandon Paudert and another officer were shot and killed during a traffic stop by Jerry R. Kane Jr. of Forest, Ohio, and his 16-year-old son Joseph.

Paudert was the son of former West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert, who now travels the country warning police officers not to underestimate potential violence.

“My experience in the last six years is: The more confrontations and the more encounters they have with law enforcement, the more dangerous they become,” he said.

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