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Militia Leader Sought After Shots Fired at Officers

By Bill Morlin on June 13, 2011 - 3:13 pm, Posted in Militias

David BurgertA manhunt was underway Monday in a remote area near the Idaho-Montana border for an antigovernment militia leader who fired shots at pursuing deputies a day earlier. David Burgert, recently released from federal prison for involvement in a plot to assassinate police and elected officials, was being hunted by sheriff’s deputies from two western Montana counties.

An FBI SWAT team from Salt Lake City was flown to Montana and joined the manhunt at daybreak for Burgert, who has a diagnosed paranoid personality disorder, law enforcement officials said. Details of the manhunt were sketchy because there is no cell phone service in the area, about 5 miles west of Lolo, Mont., and north of U.S. Highway 12.  The terrain is mountainous and heavily timbered.

A command post for the manhunt was setup at the Lumberjack Saloon, where the fleeing Burgert waved at patrons before disappearing into the woods and shooting at deputies on Sunday. The deputies weren’t hit and returned fire as Burgert fled into the woods. Various law enforcement officials said there were indications Burgert may have planned the encounter and hidden weapon or food caches in the search area.

Just last week when he was stopped by a Montana Highway patrolman, Burgert told the trooper “he wasn’t going to be taken down like the last time” and “it would take a SWAT team” to bring him in, the Billings Gazette reported.

The latest encounter between Burgert and law enforcement occurred Sunday when Missoula County deputies were dispatched to check on a Blue Jeep Cherokee that had been parked for a long time near Fort Fizzle, a day-use picnic area on Highway 12. As deputies approached, authorities said Burgert sped away west on Highway 12, eventually turning northbound on Graves Creek Road, driving past   the Lumberjack Saloon.

A short distance away, he stopped his vehicle and fired a handgun at approaching deputies, Missoula County Undersheriff Mike Dominick told the Billings Gazette. “This is a very dangerous person,’’ the undersheriff said. “I believe he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot at anyone or kidnap somebody to get their rigs.”

In 2002, Burgert headed an antigovernment militia group called “Project 7” in Flathead County, in northwestern Montana, about 120 miles north of where the current manhunt is underway. The “Project 7” militia was heavily armed and was allegedly plotting to assassinate local officials, battle the National Guard and attempt to overthrow the federal government.

That antigovernment group was dismantled with the 2002 arrest of Burgert on federal firearms charges. He was sentenced to eight years in prison where he filed civil suits against city, county and federal officials. Those suits later were dismissed as frivolous.

“This situation is  strikingly similar to the events leading up to his arrest back in 2002,’’ said Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which monitors extremist activities in that state. “It’s important to remember that this guy went to prison after leading a militia group that was stockpiling ammunition and planning to assassinate local criminal justice employees,’’ McAdam said. “Those hardcore antigovernment views don’t change overnight, or in this case even after six years in prison. We think law enforcement is correct to view him as incredibly dangerous.”

Burgert was released from prison in March 2010 and reportedly had been living in Missoula. He has an ex-wife and son who live near Kalispell, but they have had no contact with him, according to Flathead County Undersheriff Jordan White.

Burgert, however, has estranged family members and former associates living in Montana.  White said Burgert has no known connections with a new antigovernment patriot group,  “Flathead Liberty Bell,”  created in 2009 after a visit and speech by Francis Schaeffer Cox, who later moved to Fairbanks, Alaska.

In March, Cox and five other militia leaders were arrested in high-profile firearms, murder and kidnapping plot. Authorities seized hand grenades, a silencer and an unregistered machine gun in that case. Cox, 27, currently is in jail on federal charges accusing him of plotting to plot to kill Alaska state troopers and a federal judge, along with amassing the Militias are part of the so-called “Patriot” movement, whose conspiracy-minded members typically see the federal government as their primary enemy. The movement has grown significantly in the last two years.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “The word actually means “the body of the People”.”

    Nope:

    miles /mi?les/ : soldier[5]
    -itia /i?tia/ : a state, activity, quality or condition of being[6][7]
    militia /mil:i?tia/: Military service

    “There was a time when the Law was that all able bodied men between 16 and 45 MUST belong [are required by law] to their respective State Militia.”

    Yes, there was also a time when male serfs were required to serve as footmen for their lords. Times change. America would never have achieved the position it did in the 20th century if it relied on such a system.

    “In fact that law has NOT been rescinded that I am aware of. [The Militia Act of 1792]”

    A lot of laws haven’t been rescinded, such as: Oklahoma: It is illegal to sell packaged liquor (off-premises sales) on Sundays. Sales also are prohibited on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.[35] Car dealerships are also closed on Sundays.[36]

    “The founders, in fact, thought so highly of the militia as the real and proper defense of the people and the State itself that it worded one of the original ten amendments thusly: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” [Bold emphasis is mine]
    This is also the Only Time that the word Necessary is used in the entire Constitution. The. Only. Time.”

    That’s pretty interesting because usually militia types claim that this is what guarantees their right to any kind of weaponry, and they whine about any kind of regulation, much less being “well-regulated”. Don’t you think the Founding Fathers never intended for the militia, which was to be a crucial element of defense for the nation, to be trained to some kind of standard?

    “But now it is used as a pejorative of the worst order and as a club to dehumanize anyone targeted for ridicule or worst.
    The founding generation thought that a Militia was NECESSARY and hated a standing Army But nowadays the word militia is a naughty thing. Curious that Huh?
    It looks like we the people have gotten away from our Real origins doesn’t it?”

    Oh yes, life was so much better in the 18th century wasn’t it? First of all, as John pointed out, militia is the word these weekend warriors appropriated for themselves. There are a lot more apt words for such people, and for more pejorative as well- such as “fat pasty guys pretending to be soldiers”. Had America stuck with the militia system and not built a standing army, it is likely that the nation might have been eventually overcome and divided up between Mexico, Britain, and perhaps another power.

    “Don’t let others do your thinking for you.
    Words have meaning and Power. Learn what they mean.
    “In all thy getting get wisdom.”

    I agree- don’t let the guy who told you that militia means “body of the people” do your thinking for you. Learn Latin.

  • John

    “I am at a loss as to why the word militia seems to be the “Bad Guy Label of the year”?”

    I suspect it’s because of militia members like David Burgert. We only call them what they call themselves, and we don’t judge them by their titles, just their actions.

    We have the police and the National Guard. We don’t need a bunch of middle-aged morons running around playing soldier and shooting at cops and minorities and anyone else who doesn’t meet their definition of “Real ‘Murricans.” So, we treat these unnecessary lowlifes with the disdain they’ve earned.

  • captain

    I am at a loss as to why the word militia seems to be the “Bad Guy Label of the year”?

    The word actually means “the body of the People”. As in You, Me, the Cop on the beat and the doctor in his office.
    There was a time when the Law was that all able bodied men between 16 and 45 MUST belong [are required by law] to their respective State Militia.
    In fact that law has NOT been rescinded that I am aware of. [The Militia Act of 1792]
    The founders, in fact, thought so highly of the militia as the real and proper defense of the people and the State itself that it worded one of the original ten amendments thusly: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” [Bold emphasis is mine]
    This is also the Only Time that the word Necessary is used in the entire Constitution. The. Only. Time.
    But now it is used as a pejorative of the worst order and as a club to dehumanize anyone targeted for ridicule or worst.
    The founding generation thought that a Militia was NECESSARY and hated a standing Army But nowadays the word militia is a naughty thing. Curious that Huh?
    It looks like we the people have gotten away from our Real origins doesn’t it?

    So anyone you don’t like or agree with just call him or her a militia member {It’s true because they are part of “the body of the people”} and they will be hounded as a bad person.
    It is a neat rhetorical trick to color the readers viewpoint.
    As a human if you are told that green is red often enough you will begin to believe it.
    Don’t let others do your thinking for you.
    Words have meaning and Power. Learn what they mean.
    “In all thy getting get wisdom.”

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Just a matter of time till all h3ll breaks loose… push actual men too far, and you will reap what you sow.”

    Ah yes, folks like you have been warning us about all hell breaking loose for something like 30-40 years. And he sure does look like an “actual man”. I only hope my military training is sufficient to protect me from the wrath of outraged overweight middle-aged actual men.

  • Tim Ravndal

    It is important to recognize that the people of Montana are equally disturbed when news of an incident where the safety of our peace officers are jeapardized. I have to agree however, that SPLC over amplified the use of the word “militia” without giving consideration of the actual meaning of the word or its purpose in society as prescribe by law. To give a broad brush stereotyping of this incident giving indication that Montana is home to many extreme disturbed individuals is not fair. If we were to look at the disturbed individuals per capita in other states, we are likely not even make the charts. I agree with Elias. Individual freedom and liberty is expected by the people of this state and is protected by our constitution. We have a common trust here in Montana that our word is still sacred and those serving the peoples trust is true. I hope for the sake of everyone invovled in this incident that there is no one harmed. God Bless America.

  • Contrairian

    Just a matter of time till all h3ll breaks loose… push actual men too far, and you will reap what you sow.

  • Elias Alias

    Just for the sake of objectivity, and not to steal SPLC’s thunder, but to add some touch of basic perceptive info based on fact, perhaps someone could have edited into this article the correct number of militiamen in this guy’s Project 7 Militia. Can SPLC come up with a number of soldiers in this guy’s “militia”?

    I found in reading this article that it carries an undertone of exaggerated exploitation of the word “militia”. This guy’s “militia” consists (consisted in 2002) of what – five or ten guys back in 2002 when it was busted? Or was it only three or four of them? Whatever the “militia” membership, it amounted to no more than the sordid collection of ungentlemanly gents congregated at the south end of a Saloon’s long bar, in the section reserved for the Dirty Dogs club, where boisterous and risky conversation float up like tiny bubbles in drink glasses and the big bad boys with bigger mouths enjoy letting their imaginations run wild before staggering home to sleep it off.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not recall their having killed anyone. In fact, when they were busted in 2002 they had not even shot at anyone, to the best of my memory. I seem to recall instead that they were perceived by law enforcement to be “planning” to take down some law enforcement personnel and a judge or two, and that was established by finding in their possession a list of deputies’ names and addresses and the names and addresses of some judges. (That’s why many Montanans don’t keep phone books in their homes, yes?)

    I do not mean to lessen the gravity of this guy’s current misbehavior, and if he did shoot at peace officers I would hope he is quickly brought to justice and that no officers are harmed in doing so.

    But lest readers here get the notion that Montana is bristling with militia armies behind every hill in a long and large wilderness of Rocky Mountains, I would suggest that this guy and a couple of his pals are extremely isolated examples of criminal mentality and in no way represent the people of Montana or our perception of how to live responsible, productive, and peaceful lives here in one of America’s most beautiful States.

    I would also add that Montana’s law enforcement enjoys a rather high standard for honesty and integrity in the execution of their duties, and if they say that this guy fired a gun at officers, then I tend to believe them. But all things considered we should also recall that last month, in the first week of May, 2011, the Sheriff’s office of Pima County, Arizona issued statements to the press which said that Jose Guerena fired “bullets” (plural, as in, more than just one bullet) at a SWAT team which had just busted down his front door at his house near Tucson – and that report, repeated for two or three days in the press and media, was later rescinded and the Sheriff’s Department there was caught in an outright lie – Guerena did not fire his rifle even one time as he died violently in a hail of 71 bullets fired by the SWAT team in his hallway, being hit more than twenty times. I mention that because we have in the past seen various examples of lying, falsifying, and obfuscating from police or Sheriff reports coming out of situations like this.

    But I want to be clear – Montana’s law enforcement, except in several of our larger cities (all four of them, with the largest being only a little over one-hundred-thousand in population, btw) where some ego-warps manage to get into law enforcement while possessing power-trip mentalities and end up abusing the citizens, consists of very admirable and respectable women and men of high moral standards. So if Montana law enforcement says the guy shot at officers, I tend to believe them.

    But wisdom usually suggests awaiting all the facts before drawing conclusions, as we learned last month with the Pima County, Arizona SWAT team’s statements about a young Marine who had served two tours in Iraq, worked a good job, had bought his family a house, and was not charged with any crime – but was related to several people who are at least “accused” of crimes involving the Devil’s Own marijuana.
    Here is an accounting of what happened at Tucson last month

    http://oathkeepers.org/oath/20.....-part-one/

    Roll on, SPLC. Thanks for the venue.
    Salute!
    Elias Alias, Oath Keepers dot org

  • Aron Levy

    Skinnyminnie and Sam,

    Easter Island is far too beautiful for the likes of him. It’s also under the jurisdiction of Chile. And that’s a national government!

    My only other suggestion would be St Helena. While it is technically under the English Commonwealth, there are only roughly five hundred permanent residents. And they only receive mail once a year. So that might be nice for him.

    However, the Napoleonic historian inside me decries that choice, for that was the exiled Emperor’s final dominion. And I cannot sully the memory of one of my idols with the likes of this slimeball.

    To the Republic of Sealand!

  • Sam Molloy

    Book his reserations for Easter Island, Skinnyminnie

  • Aron Levy

    Now that’s an intelligent face if I’ve ever seen one…. Ye gods, man! What a putz!!!