A man who went on a killing rampage in South Carolina over the July 4th weekend expressed antigovernment survivalist views and claimed to have trained with a militia in Michigan, his former best friend says.
Kenneth Lee Myers (pictured on the right), 46, killed his wife and three other women with a 20-gauge shotgun Saturday near Wagener, S.C., then tried to run over three police officers before finally killing himself with the same gun.
Myers, a self-employed glazier, talked frequently about the “militia training’’ he received in Michigan before moving to South Carolina about a decade ago, his former best friend, Kenneth McLeoud, told Hatewatch.
“He didn’t give me a lot of specifics and it was kind of sketchy, but he said he’d undergone this supposed militia training up in Michigan,” McLeoud said. “I thought he was just trying to beef himself up … talking crap, but apparently not.”
Aiken County Sheriff’s Capt. Troy Elwell confirmed that his office was looking into Myers’ alleged militia ties. “We located several various weapons, no explosives, and no evidence of any hidden survival materials were located,” Elwell said.
Myers fatally shot his 25-year-old wife, Angela Myers; her twin sister, Tabatha T. Brown; and their 50-year-old mother, Vicky May Hook Brown; about four miles from Wagener. He also fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, Esther Baldwin, at another location about four miles from the first murder scene.
As police responded, Myers steered his pickup at three officers. The officers, who weren’t injured, were able to fire gunshots at the fleeing vehicle. After a brief chase, Myers drove back to the scene of the triple murders and killed himself with the same shotgun he used earlier, as the deputies arrived, Elwell said.
Myers, who reportedly was having financial and marital difficulties, had two daughters with another ex-wife, who McLeoud said apparently still lives in Michigan.
McLeoud said Myers was heavily armed and frequently acted erratically. “He was paranoid-acting, thought the end was coming and the government was out to get him.
“He’d quote the Bible forward and back, and had talked about becoming a minister at one point. But then out of the blue, he’d act irate. He’d get real loud and vocal and angry.”
Myers’ collection of firearms included SKS and AK-47 military-style assault rifles. He also had other rifles, including a 30.06 and a .303, along with at least two shotguns, two 9 mm handguns, a .22-caliber revolver and a .38-caliber snub-nose pistol. His rifles were equipped with night-vision scopes, and he had night-vision goggles and a Kevlar bullet-proof vest, McLeoud said. He bolted an older Kevlar vest to the inside of his truck for extra protection.
“He’d always carry that snub-nose in his pocket,’’ McLeoud said
McLeoud said he didn’t know whether Myers had made new friends in the militia movement in South Carolina but knew of his interest in becoming a Mason.
Myers subscribed to the views and philosophy of the John Birch Society and regularly read its publication New American. “He once offered me a copy, but I wasn’t particularly interested.”
McLeoud said he went on several kayaking trips with Myers on the North Edisto River and Black River near Columbia, S.C. On at least four of those trips, Myers took along waterproof, military ammunition cans stocked with survivalist supplies, including antibiotics.
“He’d bury them along the river bank or string them up with ropes in trees that would be used for deer stands,’’ McLeoud said. “He’d tell me, ‘This is how you prepare for things if the shit hits the fan.’’’
McLeoud recounted several incidents in which he was threatened by Myers.
On a kayaking trip a few years ago, Myers, who was driving, pulled a 9 mm pistol and pointed it at McLeoud’s head. McLeoud pushed his friend’s hand away and eventually grabbed the gun, causing Myers to scream, “It’s loaded! It’s loaded!” McLeoud recalled.
Then, in October 2009, as he returned home from work, McLeoud said he was
summoned by Myers. McLeoud went to a camper trailer on his neighbor’s property, where Myers had donned a head flashlight and was holding one of several cats he owned. The cat had a puncture wound, and Myers blamed McLeoud and his family.
“He grabbed me, threw me against the wall, and then out the door of the camper, throwing my glass of tea at me,’’ McLeoud said. “He then pulled his snub-nose .38 from his pocket and said if I ever stepped back over here, I’ll kill you and your family.”
When his wife heard the commotion and responded, McLeoud said she also was threatened by Myers. McLeoud said he and his wife called the sheriff’s office, but when deputies arrived, Myers apparently had fled into the nearby woods and couldn’t be located. McLeoud said he was frightened and scared when deputies asked him if he wanted to press charges. Shortly after that incident, he and his family moved elsewhere and ended all contact with Myers.