The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Remembering Law Enforcement Victims of Right-Wing Extremists

By Sonia Scherr on May 12, 2010 - 2:52 pm, Posted in Extremist Crime

More law enforcement officers were killed last year by right-wing extremists than in any other year since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Six officers were slain in 2009 by those subscribing to far-right views, making the first year of Obama’s presidency the deadliest since 1995 for extremist attacks against police officers. The fallen officers are among those being remembered during National Police Week, which runs through Saturday with events in Washington, D.C. They include three Pittsburgh police officers killed by a racist and anti-Semitic gunman, two Florida sheriff’s deputies who were shot by a man with militia interests, and a security guard who was murdered by a white supremacist at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. (For a complete list of officers slain by radical rightists since 1995, see here and here.)

Since 1990, law enforcement officers have comprised nearly 15% of the victims of far-right killings — or 49 out of more than 400 fatalities, according to a report published last month by the University of Maryland. Local and state officers have accounted for more than 70% of these law enforcement deaths. Only 1995 saw as many officers killed by extremists as last year, with six officers dying, five of them in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Far-right extremists were energized last year by the election of the first black president, concerns about the possibility of tighter gun laws, the immigration debate, and the poor economy. Interestingly, the three killers of law enforcement officers all expressed unhappiness with the president. A friend of Richard Poplawski, who is charged with murdering the Pittsburgh officers, told The Associated Press that the unemployed 23-year-old feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way.” The wife of U.S. Army Reservist Joshua Cartwright, who fatally shot the two Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies before being killed himself, told officials that her husband was “severely disturbed” by Obama’s election. (Cartwright was also interested in militia groups.) And James von Brunn, the 88-year-old Holocaust museum shooter, wrote in a notebook found in his car that “Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do,” according to a police affidavit.

Von Brunn’s victim, museum guard Stephen T. Johns, was among the fallen officers remembered at a memorial service in Washington D.C. this week. Johns was fatally shot on June 10, 2009, as he opened the museum door for von Brunn, a longtime white supremacist who later died in prison while awaiting trial. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, quoted by The Associated Press, said on Monday that Johns put himself between visitors and von Brunn, enabling other guards to incapacitate the shooter. “Officer Johns’ presence and gallant act on that fateful day saved countless lives,” she said.

The other law enforcement victims of far-right violence last year were:

  • Stephen Mayhle, 29, and Paul Sciullo III, 37, both of whom were ambushed by Poplawski when they responded to a domestic disturbance at his mother’s home on April, 4, 2009. Eric Kelly, 41, was shot by Poplawski while trying to help his fellow officers.
  • Deputies Burt Lopez and Warren “Skip” York, both 45, who were killed by Cartwright on April 25, 2009, while responding to a domestic violence call.
  • beholder

    Alvah Dickerson said,

    on May 13th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but could you at least try to find more on left wing radicals, liberation theology, and other types of baddies out there?


    I would be curious what you know about liberation theology (besides what you have been told) and if you have ever actually read anything written by Leonardo Boff for example?

    If you had, I don’t see how you could possibly make a statement like that. Sure, you may not agree with his ideas, but what in your mind makes a humanitarian philosophy something to worry about? It just doesn’t make any sense. That’s like telling SPLC to put Mother Teresa on the hate list.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    WHO are these dangerous people on the left? Sure a few exist, but how often do you see leftists gathering brandishing firearms and talking about “taking back the country.”

  • Denise

    Alvah Dickerson- I agree that there are wackos all over the political spectrum. I would also like to see our politics returned to civilized discourse. It is a shame that the media and big name politicians have figured out that they can get people to vote the way they want, by using scare tactics and lies and telling people what they want to hear in order to boost their sense of self righteousness and community inclusion.

    This being said, it’s not wrong for the media or anyone to point out the ugly truths in life. I think there is a direct correlation between the hateful and fear inducing rhetoric of Right and the rise in crazy people killing cops.

    There are dangerous people on the Left too, and I want them exposed as well. I think there needs to be conversation about these terrible things happening in our country. Having to bear the shame of someone in our political community going off the deep end and killing someone, is one way of encouraging us all to be more responsible about our discourse and propaganda. It _should_ remind us to patrol our own communities and get help for the mentally unstable before they take all the anger and lies our spin doctors are feeding them and do harm.

    As for Patriotism not being painted with the same brush as radical hate-mongering: two things-

    1) I’m a Patriot and a liberal Democrat. Please be careful not to insinuate that the political Right has any claim to title of Patriotic.

    2) If you are on the Right, and you don’t like the radical hate-mongering that is consuming your party, work to change. Maybe you already are. I hope you are. Regardless, it’s a waste of time to get upset if people point out it is there. It’s not the messenger’s fault.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    At least two Oath Keepers are facing criminal prosecution, so whatever they think of their oath to uphold the Constitution, they really suck at upholding the law.

  • daemonesslisa

    Guess I went too far with my comment. But once again, the point stands…

    CY, if what you’re trying to do is snark, you failed. If what you’re trying to do is “present balance”, you failed there too. Seriously, you need to take that “but they do it too” attitude to stormfront! It doesn’t fly here.

  • jay

    Let’s also remember those mercilessly killed at the hands of law enforcement such as the BART shooting. Let’s not forget how many people have been wrongfully charged and put on death row only to be later exonerated by DNA evidence. Let’s not forget that the USA has 5% of the world’s population but an unusually high 25% of the world’s prison population. As the US becomes a police state shouldn’t we expect an occasional citizen rebellion? “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”—Thomas Jefferson

  • Edie

    Right winger have always been a plague; for millennium people afraid of change will turn on their own people.

    Military coups are born in the minds of selfish, hateful and the deliberately obtuse nationalist; liberal, good hearted are often the victims in their savagery.

    Killing each other seems to be the only skill mankind has truly mastered.

  • Tsk’ing

    Oh you’re so right, Snorlax. But that Thin Blue Line is weaker than you think when it comes to LEOs embracing groups like Oath Keepers. Anymore, even though I’m a veteran (Sgt. USAF 1974-1979), got a degree, been working middle class all my life, I sure don’t feel I can trust them implicitly because they do have divided loyalties. The cop culture keeps individual cops isolated from regular joe six-pack civilians. Therefore, a good number of them become very vulnerable fringe groups with a persuasive law ‘n order rap. Sadly, I suspect right now, more cops are getting advanced because of tacit approval of groups like Oath Keeprs than are facing impediments.

  • skinnyminny


    Awesome! This makes me wonder if the police officers in Los Angeles, the newspapers, and news, saying the officers shot suspects in the head is part of this group. I argue against this (shooting in the head) because these are the actions we normally see in foreign countries.

    Even though I don’t like guns, I am wondering why the City of Los Angeles continue to have ‘gun buy-back’ programs in the minority communities, when clearly, you have these alleged extremist fighting for their rights to bear arms. Not to mention, there’s no clamp down on gun shows. This doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

  • Alvah Dickerson

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but could you at least try to find more on left wing radicals, liberation theology, and other types of baddies out there? Looking at the total political spectrum, there are crazies of every stripe. They all give anyone in any small way having at least some similar viewpoints a bum rap. Right wing activists are not all fire-breathing wacko radicals. Patriotism should certainly not be painted with the same brush as radical hate monngering. What a boring country this would be if we all agreed all the time. I would like to see us come back to civilized discourse and debate, leading to consensus. Give and take is not a one way street.

  • SeanCYoung

    Let’s play Snorlax’s game:

    Now that we’ve seen a “Black Man” go off the deep end, I hope all LEOs who read Intelligence Report are aware of the problems with “Black Men” and will avoid them.

    If you’re a law enforcement officer, I bet you already take an oath – an official one – to uphold the law. Which allows you to ignore the oath you took to the Constitution. Who really needs that pesky document; it only gets in the way of real police work.

    I’m going to predict that having “Oath Keepers” on your record will be an impediment to advancement. Keep that in mind that no cop wants to work with other cops who take their oath to defend the Constitution seriously.

    We have a Thin Blue Line protecting police from citizens. We should do everything we can to forget about the Constitution and create a “police state”.

  • rudy

    Your thin blue line protects you from criminal prosicution. Oath Keepers have more honor and integrity than a lot of police officers have now-a-days.

  • Snorlax

    Now that we’ve seen a “Oath Keeper” go off the deep end, I hope all LEOs who read Intelligence Report are aware of the problems with “Oath Keepers” and will avoid them.

    If you’re a law enforcement officer, I bet you already take an oath – an official one – to uphold the law. You don’t need to subscribe to this bunch.

    I’m going to predict that having “Oath Keepers” on your record will be an impediment to advancement. Keep that in mind when you’re studying for the sergeant’s exam.

    We have a Thin Blue Line protecting us from criminal anarchy. Let’s not weaken that line.