Police say at least two of the seven suspects arrested for the fatal shooting of two Louisiana sheriffs deputies last Thursday are connected to the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement.
According to WBRZ-TV, 28-year-old Kyle Joekel and 44-year-old Terry Smith had identified themselves as part of the movement, which was classified as a domestic terror group last year by the FBI.
Joekel and Smith, along with several members of Smith’s family and other associates, were arrested following an ambush on authorities in LaPlace, Louisiana, about 25 miles west of New Orleans. Deputies Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were killed in the ensuing shootout. Two more deputies were wounded.
Smith’s son, Brian Lyn Smith, 24, has been charged with first-degree murder. Arrested as principals to attempted first-degree murder were Derrick Smith, 22, and 21-year-old Teniecha Bright. Terry Smith’s wife, 37-year-old Chanel Skains, and 23-year-old Britney Keith, Bryan Smith’s girlfriend, were arrested and charged as accessories to the crime.
According to The New Orleans Time-Picayune the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which regularly monitors hate group activity, estimates that the sovereign movement is on the rise, with an estimated 300,000 members. A training video produced by the SPLC for law enforcement agencies has received about 80,000 orders.
“Sovereigns believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes,” the SPLC explains in a report on the group. “Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials.”
Watch WBRZ’s Aug. 17 report on the group allegedly behind the shootings below: