Police teach tactics for handling ‘sovereign citizens’
The FBI classifies such people, who refuse to recognize government authority in virtually any form, as part of a domestic terrorist movement.
By David Zucchino
Los Angeles Times
April 5, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C. — With his shaggy hair, bushy mustache and obstinate ways, Jeffrey Allen Wright was well known to sheriff’s deputies in Santa Rosa County, Fla.
Wright, 55, drove around with a phony license plate. When stopped, he refused to produce a driver’s license. Once he threatened to sue a deputy who pulled him over.
After he was fined for traffic offenses in September, Wright paid with counterfeit money orders. When deputies served warrants for felony counterfeiting March 8, Wright barricaded himself in his garage and declared that he would not be “a servant of the king.”
He broke out windows with a handgun, then pointed the weapon at officers, police said. Three deputies fired, killing Wright.
When Det. Rob Finch of the Greensboro police department heard about the incident, two words came to mind: sovereign citizen.
Finch teaches police and public officials around the country how to deal with self-described “sovereign citizens” like Wright. Finch and his partner, Det. Kory Flowers, have trained nearly 15,000 police and 5,000 public officials to combat sovereigns, zealots who refuse to recognize government authority in virtually any form.
Violent confrontations are rare, but the FBI says at least six police officers have been killed by sovereigns since 2000. A man tied to the movement shot and killed a California Highway Patrol officer who stopped him in Contra Costa County last year. A responding officer shot and killed the assailant.
The agency calls sovereigns — who number between 100,000 and 300,000 — a “domestic terrorist movement.”