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Sovereigns Arrested After Police Stand-off Near Spokane

By Bill Morlin on August 9, 2012 - 3:21 pm, Posted in Antigovernment, Extremist Crime, Sovereign Citizens

Two antigovernment “sovereign citizens” who refused to get out of their truck – only to be surrounded by SWAT teams near Spokane, Wash. –  ultimately were arrested Wednesday by the only authority they truly recognize: the county sheriff.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told Hatewatch today that he excused himself from an afternoon meeting at the Public Safety Building after being informed of a potentially violent standoff involving his deputies and two self-proclaimed sovereign citizens.

The truck, stopped by detectives and uniformed deputies in Otis Orchards, had invalid license plates and “was covered in sovereign citizen signs, including one that said it was a ‘noncommercial private vehicle’ and ‘no trespassing,’” The Spokesman-Review reported in Thursday’s editions.

“I know they tend to only recognize the authority of the sheriff, so I figured it was my job to go out there and help peacefully defuse this situation,” Knezovich told Hatewatch.

When he arrived on the scene, an armored personnel carrier from the sheriff’s office was parked “nose-to-nose” with the suspects’ vehicle. Knezovich, who was a SWAT team commander before being elected sheriff, approached from the safety of the armored vehicle, not knowing if the two sovereign citizens were armed.

Standing two car lengths away from the suspects’ truck, Knezovich told its occupants he was, indeed, the sheriff of Spokane County who had arrived to facilitate their peaceful arrests. From behind the opened door of the bullet-proof SWAT vehicle, Knezovich said he shouted to the two men, “I am the sheriff. Let’s not do this the hard way.”

The sheriff said he didn’t draw his own handgun as he attempted to speak with the two men but tried to convince them they wouldn’t be harmed if they peacefully surrendered. “It’s sometimes easier to talk to somebody if you’re not holding a weapon,” he said.

But nearby, several members of the sheriff’s SWAT team had their tactical weapons pointed at the suspects in case they pulled firearms or things went sour, Knezovich said. The sheriff said he sensed the passenger in the vehicle was inclined to get out, but when no movement occurred for nearly three hours, his SWAT officers cautiously approached.

“They had to cut the seatbelts, and physically pulled these two guys out of the truck, but it all happened relatively peacefully and nobody got hurt,” the sheriff told Hatewatch.

Arrested on traffic and misdemeanor charges were Michael Francis Hicks, 55, and David Ray Galland, 58, jail records show.

Hicks was booked into the Spokane County Jail on charges of failure to provide information; driving with his license suspended; and obstructing a police officer.  He was also cited for modified or altered license plates. Galland was booked into jail for obstructing and failure to provide information, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, the public information officer for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, Knezovich continued his day with three more meetings.

The sheriff told Hatewatch he stands ready to be called out again anytime “if we get into another situation like this. I’d rather do that than have somebody get hurt.”

There have been a number of violent encounters between sovereigns and police in the United States, typically beginning with traffic stops. Sovereigns generally believe they don’t have to pay taxes or follow laws, including those requiring valid driver’s license and vehicle registrations. The worst encounter in recent years came in May 2010, when a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two West Memphis, Ark., police officers during a traffic stop. They were later killed by police in a shopping center parking lot, but only after they wounded two more officers.

A recent FBI report labeled sovereign citizens a “domestic terrorist” threat, and a particularly dangerous one for law enforcement officials. “Law enforcement and judicial officials must understand the sovereign-citizen movement, be able to identify indicators, and know how to protect themselves from the group’s threatening tactics,” the report said.

  • Michael-Francis

    You people are so funny, we didn’t have any weapons, we where going 29 mph in travel on the common way(which is ruled an absolute right) To bad you people don’t know what a right is because your to busy throwing mud instead of studying, I have studied for approx. 7 years about the legal system and common law and well all I can say according to the supreme court and other local courts through there case laws and statues that I absolutely have the right to operate a non commercial vehicle on all common ways without a drivers license, registration and insurance under common law

  • Mike Jones

    I am curious how these two men’s cases have evolved. The paper that originally reported the story had a article about one’s initial court appearances and then absolutely zero followup.

  • aadila

    @berrybest
    @joe

    I read over the comments and only one person seemed to think the SCs were armed. So who is jumping to conclusions, friends?

    In any conflict with the police violence is a potential. That is one reason I am so wary of the police: the Justice Department should be much more active in policing the police, especially in places like Texas where abuses are routine and commonplace.

    But this Sheriff managed to restore order without violence and deserves to be recognized for his skill, patience, and mindfulness under pressure.

  • berrybestfarm

    I find it fascinating that not one single commentor opposed to these SC’s (who had no weapons by the way) cite anything credible in support of their “facts”.
    Dennis Patterson–Deer Park, WA

  • joe

    I am just wondering why so many of you think these guys were armed. The only armed persons and overly armed at that were the deputies on scene. The driver should have been cited and sent on his way. Even if the plates were a fraud they could have figured out proper ownership of the vehicle through the VIN number on the pick-up. Also Matt Shea is a perfectly solid patriotic American and a great representative of our area, if we only had some 700 Matt Sheas serving “US ” in DC we would be in a lot better shape than we are now certainly.

  • Reyn

    Marsha,

    I realize that you are a “Sovereign Citizen” — I realize this not only because of your particular grammar and word choice combinations, but because of your capitalization, which poorly reflects the late 1700s.

    Please, I don’t want to upset or hurt you. I am only telling you the truth. You don’t have to listen, but perhaps you might think about whether or not it is in your interests.

    The SC movement is a fraud. The Commerce Code has no relationship to the common man. We are not (as some Sovereigns believe) actually subject to Great Britain. There is no secret bank account started for the real you when you are born. It’s all someone’s dream, possibly fueled by insanity.

    Societies and nation states are formed by the will of the people. Even in monarchies the rulers only govern by the consent of the people (consider the French Revolution and the English Civil War). While many people may grouse about taxes or this or that – we endure them, even celebrate them because we believe in America – not the America of Sovereign fantasy, the real one. We love the country and the culture and even when we disagree with the change that occurs sometimes — we accept it.

    That is the nature of democracy. That is the nature of how real nation states are formed. That is the system that REALLY you are living under, no matter what anyone tells you.

    Yes, corporations have too much power. Yes, the 1% are harming people and exploiting everyone they can. No, the answer is not pretending that another system that has never existed really does, and fighting against the one that does really exist with all your might while pretending that it doesn’t.

    Work to bring about change through the means really at your disposal (politics and activism), rather than trying to bring back a world that never was and never will be – which can only lead to heartbreak, even at best.

    Regards,

    Reyn

  • Michael-Francis:Hicks

    7 years of studying about the legal system and common law etc etc etc says I know my right to travel and who said I was caring a weapon of any kind, you people will believe any thing. Hi Marsha ,Thank you for your comment .

  • freedom lover

    You people are disgusting

  • aadila

    Reynardine, let’s not forget Grotius and the idea that society has the right to determine the form of its sovereign, whether it be by election or by hereditary birthright.

    Theoretically there could be sovereign citizens if there was no government per se, but I know of no such society in the present day. It sounds to me like rampant individualism, which is prized in our society to the detriment of the common weal (vide the attacks on the Affordable Healthcare Act).

    Mind you, it doesn’t sound like the jokers brought into custody are too familiar with Grotius.

  • Joseph

    Marsha, please tell me how our laws do not apply to sovereigns? What makes a sovereign citizen no longer an US citizen? I’ve read the documentation, I want to know aht the real deal is???

  • Gregory

    Marsha,

    The Declaration of Independence, while an eloquent and historic statement, has absolutely nothing to do with the situation in question. Unless, of course, you are a nutcase.

  • Lone Wolf

    The sheriff of Spokane County should also be commended for not endorsing State Representative Matt Shea from Spokane Valley who believes that President Obama has a secret army bent on decreasing the unemployment rate by shooting those without a job, rounding up Christians and forcing them into F.E.M.A. administered concentration camps, and passing laws to make Christianity a crime. Matt Shea is a featured speaker at Stevens County Assembly monthly meetings and failed Stevens County Sheriff candidate and OathKeeper Russell Bolton, is their Chairman.

    The sheriff of Spokane County is endorsing State Representative Matt Sheas’ opposition and that is certainly to his credit also.

  • Reynardine

    Marsha, your syntax is most eloquent

  • adamhill

    “MARSHA” needs To TAKE her MEDICATION.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Marsha dear, I think it might be time to go back on those medications…

  • MARSHA MAINES

    I am consistently AMAZED how so FEW Domestic Terrorists (SWAT) carrying BADGES & GUNS have No Clue what our Constitution SAYS – or our Declaration of Independence…!!! AND THE “CRIME” THAT INJURED ANOTHER PERSON OR PROPERTY WAS whom? THE STATES’ OWN POCKETBOOK – NOT ANY PERSON! It’s called a Private Property RIGHT – not a “priviledge”…To OWN a vehicle, To Travel in one’s own Privately Owned Vehicle on the Public roads (w/o Robber Barons) minding one’s Own Business while NOT OPERATING IN COMMERCE! These Swat cops should be FLOGGED.

  • Reynardine

    Collectively, United States citizens are the sovereign, and we exercise our sovereignty through our elected representatives. Individually, no: we have, in effect, compacted with the collective sovereign, of which we are a part, to obey its laws.

  • aadila

    As far as I know the term “sovereign citizen” is an oxymoron, because to be a citizen you need a state, and to be a state it must be sovereign. Thus, through this simple syllogism, it becomes clear one cannot be both citizen and sovereign.

  • adamhill

    I agree with aadila. The sheriff should be commended for defusing this situation in an intelligent, measured way. Maybe in considering approaches to similar encounters with “Sovereigns” in the future, police agencies might regard Sheriff Knezovich’s strategy as a model.

    These two SCs must have faced a difficult cognitive challenge when they were told to surrender by the County Sheriff. If they walk their talk, they would need to surrender to the “highest legal authority in the land.” However, their talk (their “philosophy”) is really just a flimsy attempt at self-justification for the qualities that actually motivate them: mental illness, pathological immaturity, and/or criminal inclinations. “I’m dangerously paranoid about the government, but this is actually okay, because I have this Sovereign Citizen philosophy that supports my paranoia with something like legitimacy.” It’s the same with Christian Identity adherents, who at heart are brutes, losers, and psychotics clogged with irrational hatred and violent impulses, but none of these deficiencies need to be defended, because “God” says it is all correct.

  • adamhill

    I agree with aadila. The sheriff should be commended for defusing this situation in an intelligent, measured way. Maybe in considering approaches to similar encounters with “Sovereigns” in the future, police agencies might regard Sheriff Knezovich’s strategy as a model.

    These two SCs must have faced a difficult cognitive challenge when they were told to surrender by the County Sheriff. If they walk their talk, they would need to surrender. However, their talk (their “philosophy”) is really just a flimsy attempt at self-justification for the qualities that actually motivate them: mental illness, pathological immaturity, and/or criminal inclinations. “I’m dangerously paranoid about the government, but this is actually okay, because I have this Sovereign Citizen philosophy that supports my paranoia with something like legitimacy.” It’s the same with Christian Identity adherents, who at heart are brutes, losers, and psychotics clogged with irrational hatred and violent impulses, but none of these deficiencies need be defended, because “God” says it all correct.

  • aadila

    Sam you are right. The Sheriff chose the correct path, one that led to resolving the threat without violence. If you think how many things could have gone wrong, and how quickly, I believe that the one key factor that led to the best possible outcome was this Sheriff. He sincerely has caused me to look at the entire institution of the police in this country in a new, more favorable way. He literally saved these guys’ lives, and possibly his own. Very remarkable. For now on I will consider him the Bodhisattva Sheriff.

  • Sam Molloy

    No, Dan, they didn’t, but then again they didn’t start shooting, either. That Sheriff handled this beautifully and deserves some sort of quiet recognition.

  • Doc Hollidaye

    A recent FBI report labeled sovereign citizens a “domestic terrorist” threat…

    Thank God, someone has correctly defined this movement. It’s absolutely insane! It’s one thing to stand for something and want change but to adopt a philosophy that is not only violent but invasive on other citizens rights is absolutely insane.

  • ABC

    The reason that many law enforcement agencies across the country have to invest in SWAT teams, armored vehicles, and high powered firearms for patrol officers is because of people like these sovereign citizens and other extremists. We are in an epidemic of crazy right wing people who are hopped up on Alex Jones style conspiracy theories, who think that the President was born in another country and is out to take their precious guns. They like to shoot police, abortion providers, and other people they hate. It also doesn’t help that these nuts have almost unlimited access to high powered weaponry at gun stores and gun shows.

  • ABC

    I’m glad that the sheriff’s department was able to take these guys in without a shot fired, but the reason it ended peacefully is because the bad guys decided to give up peacefully. If they decided to shoot it out then the deputies would have been forced to fire on them.

  • Sharon Larocque

    Kudos to the Sheriff!

  • Linnea

    Yes, I noticed that too, Dan. You have to wonder whether these idiots recognize *any* legal authority at all. I suspect not. They don’t know what a civilized society is, or realize that laws are necessary to maintain one.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    Important point of this story to note is that the SCs didn’t obey the County Sheriff.

  • Reynardine

    I daresay the culprits could be surrounded for a number of hours and a Port-o-let placed temptingly a few yards from them. Sooner or later…

  • scipio

    If they were Black they’d be dead. End of story.

  • aadila

    Sovereigns apart I would like to comment on the enlightened action of the sheriff. Many citizens including myself are very critical of the police. Studies into police attitudes show that many are very stressed out and feel unappreciated. Some as we know should never be cops. Others, start out ok but the job gets to them and they end up being oppressors. Once in a while we see that even armed, potentially violent people like this sheriff manage to serve an important role in keeping order, and though they appear very fierce to the eye, they are in fact of a higher level of human development and are truly enlightened beings. Anyone who doubts that someone can carry a weapon and still be enlightened should notice some day buddhist temples in southeast Asia which have bodhissatva representations with weapons. The correct intent and truly brave and noble manifestation of the enlightened warrior is exemplified by sheriff Knezovich, who resolved this without bloodshed.