‘Sovereign citizens’ charged in plot to kill police

LAS VEGAS — A foiled plot by two self-proclaimed adherents of a sovereign citizen movement to kidnap and execute Las Vegas police officers shows the potential for violence from a growing group that renounces government and is considered a domestic terror group at its extremes, experts and investigators said Friday.

Allegations that David Allen Brutsche, 42, and Devon Campbell Newman, 67, planned to confront police officers during traffic stops and kill them if they resisted illustrated the volatility of official interactions with people committed to the idea of fighting governmental authority, they said.

“You look at their motivation being that the government that gives the officer authority isn’t viable, and if they get a following, it’s a threat to be reckoned with,” said Kory Flowers, a Greensboro, N.C., police detective who studies sovereign citizen groups and teaches police about them.

“Even if it’s a crackpot idea, four or five guys can be a tactical assault team,” he said.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., counted seven killings of law enforcement officers by alleged sovereign citizen members in the past 10 years in South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and last year in Alamo, Calif.

Other officers have been served with “paper terrorism” arrest documents and bills for millions of dollars, Beirich said, or discovered liens filed against their personal property.

“It becomes, at the end of the day, ‘We hate the government, and the government has no right to tell us what to do,’” Beirich said.

The center estimates there are 300,000 adherents to the sovereign citizen anti-government philosophy around the country.

Former West Memphis, Ark., Police Chief Bob Paudert thinks there may be twice that number.

Paudert blames the 2010 death of his son, West Memphis Police Sgt. Brandon Paudert, on a sovereign citizens confrontation during a traffic stop in their hometown. Another officer also died in that shooting, before suspected sovereign citizen followers Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son, Joe Kane, were killed a short time later in a separate police shootout in West Memphis.

“They’re willing to die for their beliefs,” said Paudert, who now travels the country talking about the group.

Brutsche is an ex-felon child sex offender who sometimes sold water to tourists on the Las Vegas Strip, while Newman has only speeding, parking and vehicle registration tickets in her background.

The two stood before a judge Friday and told him they didn’t recognize his authority to keep them in jail.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen had none of it.

“So noted,” he responded.

The judge made sure Brutsche and Newman read the criminal complaints against them, then sent them back to jail pending a Sept. 9 preliminary hearing on charges of felony conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping.

Over Brutsche’s rambling objections, the judge appointed the county public defender’s office to represent him and set bail at $600,000.

Hafen named a lawyer to represent Newman and scheduled her bail hearing for Monday. Newman’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond Friday to messages.

Police allege Brutsche and Newman held training sessions about sovereign citizen philosophy, shopped for guns, found a vacant house to serve as a “jail,” and drilled bolts into wall studs to hold cross-beams on which captives could be bound during interrogation.

A police report alleges Brutsche and Newman recorded and planned to post videos about their actions and sovereign citizen ideology following the first abduction.

Brutsche said he expected to draw a large following once they started because of the publicity, the report said.

Police began investigating Brutsche after he insisted to police and judges that he wasn’t subject to their authority and the laws and regulations of the United States, Las Vegas police Capt. Chris Jones said.

Jones characterized Newman as an acquaintance and roommate of Brutsche who shared his ideology.

Records show Brutsche served three stints in California prisons before leaving a facility in Tracy, Calif., in Sept. 2011. Since then, in Las Vegas, he has faced more than 20 criminal cases on misdemeanor offenses including doing business without a license, obstructing a public sidewalk, driving without a license, driving an unregistered vehicle and failing to appear in court.

Las Vegas police said Friday that Brutsche had 17 bench warrants when he was arrested Tuesday.

Judges noted his declarations that he was a sovereign citizen and continued to move his cases forward, according to court records.

“Each time we came in contact with him, he became increasingly adamant that police had no authority over him or his actions because he considered himself a sovereign,” said Jones, head of the Las Vegas police regional counterterrorism center.

Federal authorities regard sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists.

Beirich, at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said not all people who consider themselves sovereign citizens are violent.

But she called traffic stops involving people driving with fake license plates or without registration or driver’s licenses a “typical flash point between cops and sovereigns.”

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Edmonds police are searching for Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, in the homicide of his roommate. If you see him, call 911. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Most Read