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‘Sovereign Citizen’ Shot in Exchange of Gunfire With Texas Cop

By Robert Steinback on July 22, 2011 - 11:51 am, Posted in Sovereign Citizens

“Sovereign citizens” – people who believe they are not subject to government or law enforcement authority – are serious and troubling annoyances to the courts, which often become bogged down with mountains of fraudulent, pseudo-legal paperwork they are known to file. But a police shootout in Hurst, Texas, this week is a reminder that “sovereign” defiance is capable of turning violent.

Self-described “Moorish national” Joseph M. Tesi was shot twice by an as-yet unidentified officer of the Colleyville Police Department during an exchange of gunfire on a residential street Thursday morning. The officer, a 26-year veteran of the force, was uninjured. Tesi, also known as James Michael Joseph, is expected to recover from bullet wounds to his face and foot.

This extraordinary case began as a simple traffic stop in Arlington, Texas, in February 2010. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tesi was cited for driving without a seat belt, and subsequently fined $244.15. He never paid the fine, causing a warrant for his arrest to be issued. When he was stopped again, allegedly for speeding in Colleyville in December, he did not produce a driver’s license, and was arrested on the Arlington warrant, the newspaper reported.

Tesi in April filed a petition asking a federal court to take possession of his case arguing that as a member of the “Moorish National Republic,” he was “free to travel,” and that he did not give his express consent to be detained by police, according to the Star-Telegram. He also argued that he should not have to pay court fees or “be compelled to fill out any ritualistic forms.”

“Persons and corporations have assets and I am neither,” he wrote in his petition, identifying himself as “I, Me, My, or Myself, also known as James Michael Joseph; house of Tesi El.” He continued: “I am not saying I do not have property, because I do have property, but the property I have is not an asset, and I have no income or expenses because I am not a U.S. citizen, 14th Amendment citizen, corporation, or other fictitious entity as defined by your current and FRAUDULENT Fourteenth Amendment.”

Tesi’s petition was unusual in two respects: Most self-identified sovereign citizens don’t recognize the authority of either state or federal government, yet Tesi was asking the federal court to intervene in his local case. Also, those claiming to be part of the “Moorish National Republic” say they are members of an indigenous black tribe independent of U.S. jurisdiction. Tesi is described by local police as white.

The Star-Telegram also reported that Tesi listed as a contact on his federal petition a person listed as the Robertson County “treasurer and notary” for the Republic of Texas, an antigovernment group that advocates Texas secession, and whose adherents have on occasion resorted to violence.

The officer who ultimately shot Tesi apparently recognized the suspect near the city line between Hurst and Colleyville and followed him to his home in Hurst, according to a Colleyville police spokeswoman, the Colleyville Courier reported. According to the police report, Tesi fired first at the officer, who returned fire.

The unique danger posed by this movement was made clear in May 2010 when two West Memphis, Ark., police officers met a father-son team of sovereigns, Jerry and Joe Kane, during a routine late-morning traffic stop. As officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans puzzled over the incomprehensible paperwork presented by father Jerry, son Joe, 16, emerged from the vehicle with his AK-47 and fatally shot both officers. The Kanes fled, but were tracked and killed in a shootout with police an hour later in a Wal-Mart parking lot after wounding two more officers.

  • scxott

    you cant judge all soverigns beccause of a few peoplle. should we judge all cops because their is some bad? why is it we are called terrorists?? because the government is loosing their position and people are finding out how bad we are getting screwed. the people own the usa not the government

  • Fiona

    Police are all extremely violent criminals, kidnapping people for harmless things and destroying lives, killing and maiming, intimidating people, ruining everyone’s good time. Police are large scale mafia.

  • Yul Grant

    Tesis teeth were shot out onto his on vehicles seat. He was getting out of the car with a cell phone in his right hand according to the defense. The neighbor (the one that would come forward) indicated this officer fired first shooting Doctor Tesi in his garage and hitting him in the foot, Tesi apparently grabbed his firearm and returned fire. He had not committed any crime other tan the traffic violation and regarding what that deserves apparently if you are cornered by law enforcement in your own garage you are NOT allowed to return fire when fired upon. That was the conclusion of deliberation. If you see the link above the attorney is not happy about having a gun to his head prior to trial either but hey it is a good old boy system and Tesi (a Doctor practicing rehabiliative medicine, and a university professor) of course must be portrayed as a religious thug. He financial donated to Ron Paul as well that probably doesnt sit well down there either.

  • John Donovan

    Let’s bracket our biases about cops for the moment and look at this particular case. If someone starts shooting at me, I’m sure as hell going to shoot back. What the officer did was not only rational, he’d be an idiot not to do it.

    As far as not recognizing the legitimacy of the government, I’ve traveled in countries in which I didn’t recognize the legitimacy of those governments. OTOH I did recognize what would happen to me if I ignored their laws or even broke them. The ‘sovereigns’ are entitled to their opinions, but whether or not you like the rules of the game, if you break them you’re going to pay the price.

  • swanie

    It is absolutely pointless to make any comments regarding the actions of these so-called “sovereign citizens”, which is a bunch of unadulterated BS.


  • Greg deGiere

    Of course it’s true that law enforcement officers sometimes are unnecessarily rude and sometimes overreact with unnecessary force.

    One officer told me a story about another officer who was questioning someone who he didn’t know was deaf. The officer believed the subject was being uncooperative and “put a gun in his ear.”

    The San Francisco Bay Ara Rapid Transit police killing of an evidently mentally ill man this month may be another example. It turns out that the BART police have only implemented a few of the may recommendations of the consultant they hired after the last shooting death two years ago.

    Part of the solution is better officer training. In California, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training has an excellent training program that, I believe, has made a big difference. Production of new training materials has been cut back, like everything else the state does, because of the budget. But all of the commission’s training materials are still available, and law enforcement agencies should use them more extensively. I believe they’re also available to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

    Rather than blanket emotional condemnations of police, people in any state who are angry about officer behavior should demand that their local law enforcement agencies devote more serious time to training. With budgets short, that might mean less time actually policing, but in many cases if would be worth it.

    Training is not the entire solution, but but is a big part of it.

  • Mike

    How about you go out on the street and do what this officer did. You won’t because it’s easier for you to sit back in you cozy little house on your computer and blog negative comments about someone out there trying to protect your rights. So until you chase a bad guy with a gun I think you shold probally keep your NEGATIVE COMMENTS to yourself. Don’t think for a second that all that is reported is all the evidence that exisits. The media is notorious for making a story instead of reporting it. If you really want to know, FOIA the file from the city or county and then make a determination. Until then your comments make you sound as ignorant as you try to make those officers out to be.

  • Jonas Rand

    “The problem here is that sovereigns are simultaneously promoting civil disobedience against law enforcement while carrying firearms in public. This is a nightmare scenario for…”

    …nearly everyone else, to be honest. But there are about 300000 sovereign citizens, and all of them are not claiming sovereign citizenship to swagger around with unlicensed guns in their hands. It appears that a large number of them just don’t want to pay their speeding tickets, fines for minor infractions, or obey the rules of the road.


    What I am saying is that it’s possible that the officer is a liar. There is no witness confirmation as far as I can tell. This might be a fabricated excuse; there ought to be a thorough investigation to determine whether the cop had a reason to shoot, if no evidence exists. The public should not just be forced to accept the cops’ word as true; this has been proven in the past to be an untrustworthy.

    Police officers often get away with far more than they should, and the judicial system’s bias in their favor sometimes allows them to get away with everything up to murder. Cops, like most authority figures, develop a power-crazed, arrogant response when questioned or challenged nonviolently. Unlike most authority figures, this petty authoritarian mentality is demonstrated in a rather extreme form when cops display it. And they are not held accountable to the public when it exceeds the bounds of legality. For example, the Erik Scott case. In my hometown, a man named Erik Scott was shot to death by Metro officers in the parking lot of a Costco supermarket. Erik Scott was armed, but his gun was registered and legal; he had a conceal-carry permit. There was no evidence whatsoever that Erik Scott was trying to kill the officer, or was a criminal. However, it was discovered that there were unusually high levels of morphine in Scott’s system at the time of his death. This allowed the cops to justify Scott’s killing by saying that he was erratic with his gun and needed to be shot because he could have harmed someone. A rubberstamp coroners’ inquest was held, which didn’t result in any legal repercussions for the police officers.

    Was there a potential that Scott could have harmed someone? Yes, but there was no proof that he was credibly threatening the officers and needed to be killed to “control” him. Police perfidy + no accountability for cops = fail.

  • John

    @ Jonas Rand

    I’m sorry, I thought you were talking about this particular case.

    I agree that police officers are too quick to resort to violence, but I don’t see any problem here. The officer approached Tesi- who was wanted for traffic violations and failure to appear in court- and Tesi opened fire. The officer defended himself.

  • Alan Aardman

    The problem here is that sovereigns are simultaneously promoting civil disobedience against law enforcement while carrying firearms in public. This is a nightmare scenario for law enforcement officers.

    Note the emphasis on peaceful demonstration from history’s best-known leaders of social change, such as Gandhi.

  • Jonas Rand

    Firing a gun at someone, with no evidence or when it is unlcear that the person is armed and intends to kill you (or is reckless), is wrong. The last sovereign who got shot by a cop was killed, unarmed, for trying to wrest a taser from the cop’s hands. The only reason the taser was being fired was because the sovereign tried to argue with the officer. The cop was about to electrocute someone for questioning authority, and then the cop murdered him for trying to avoid being electrocuted. Literally. And then got away with it.

    Saying that these incidents are evidence that the sovereign citizens movement can turn violent totally ignores context, obscuring who the victim is and who the abuser is. In both these cases, there was a total role reversal of the Jerry and Joe Kane incident; the sovereign was the victim, and the officer was the shooter.

  • John

    What did the police officer do wrong?

  • Jonas Rand

    “According to the police report, Tesi fired first at the officer, who returned fire.”

    If that’s true, then it may have been justified, but wanton police brutality (i.e. shooting people) simply because a power hungry cop finds it annoying that anyone would dare question his AUTHORITEH!!! is uncalled for and unjust. (This is in no way suggesting that this is what occurred in Mr. Tesi’s case, but a reference to the last “Sovereign” who got shot.) Why can cops never get it through their lunk-thick heads that in this country, dissent is a human right! Every attempt at questioning the idiot police or independently inquiring beyond the robotic Yessirs and Yesma’ams, is stifled by uninformative, unconstructive replies and violence. Only the dumbest among us use such jackbooted thuggery, since they cannot (or do not want to) engage in rational debate. Maybe they could all go to Burma, but I suppose that putting the Burmese though more hell wouldn’t help anyone.