A family in North Dakota that were members of the “Sovereign Citizens” movement became in June the first American citizens in history to be arrested with the help of Predator drone aircraft, according to a report published Monday morning.
The arrests happened after members of the Brossart family chased off a sheriff looking for missing cows, The Los Angeles Times reported. They did so at gunpoint, so the sheriff called in reinforcements from the state troopers, a regional SWAT team and Grand Forks Air Force Base, which dispatched the remote controlled aircraft.
Using thermal optics, the pilot was able to locate the Brossart family members on their 3,000 acre farm, determining that they were likely armed. Hoping to avoid a violent confrontation, police waited until the sun came out again. In the early morning light, they spotted the family members and determined they were unarmed, then sent SWAT in to make the arrests.
“Rodney Brossart, his daughter Abby and his three sons face a total of 11 felony charges, including bail jumping and terrorizing a sheriff, as well as a misdemeanor count against Rodney involving the stray cattle,” Times reporter Brian Bennett noted.
All of the adults in the family are allegedly members of the “Sovereign Citizens” movement, which holds that the Posse Comitatus Act forbids virtually all government functions. (It doesn’t.) Two members of the loosely spun movement were arrested last year after murdering two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers them to be one of the nation’s top domestic terror threats.
Since the arrests of the Brossart family, police in North Dakota say they’ve called out drones “several” more times, but generally in situations where live aerial pictures can give them an advantage. Drone aircraft are more commonly used in war zones like Afghanistan or Pakistan, but the U.S. also uses them for law enforcement in Colombia, where they’re operated out of military bases and used to track down drug smugglers.