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Suspects in Louisiana Cop Killings May be ‘Sovereign Citizens’

By Bill Morlin on August 17, 2012 - 2:47 pm, Posted in Sovereign Citizens

State and federal investigators believe at least two of the five suspects arrested in connection with a shoot-out Thursday that killed two sheriff’s deputies near New Orleans have ties to the sometimes violent, antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement.

If so, that would mean that sovereigns have now killed four law enforcement officers since May 2010 and wounded several more. The FBI in 2011 labeled sovereigns as comprising a “domestic terrorist movement.”

“I had two officers ambushed – I even want to say assassinated,” St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Michael Tregre told reporters at a news conference, The Associated Press reported.

font According to news report, the incident began early Friday morning when a gunman fired shots that wounded  an off-duty deputy providing security at a parking lot used by refinery workers in an industrial area west of New Orleans. Officers tracked a car seen speeding away from the site to a nearby trailer park. When they knocked on the door of a trailer, a person exited the trailer and opened fired with an assault rifle, killing two deputies and wounding another. Two of the suspects were wounded in the shoot-out.

Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson told reporters at a press conference this afternoon that his investigators were still piecing together the sequence of events that led to the fatal shootings. There were “multiple scenes, multiple gunshots, multiple weapons” involved, Edmonson said.

Edmonson said that although charges haven’t been filed yet, there’s more than enough evidence to bring felony counts against five of the suspects who were in a vehicle when the first deputy was fired upon.

The deputies who were killed near Laplace, La., were identified as Brandon Nielsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 27. Two other officers, Jason Triche, 30, and Michael Boyington, 33, were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the suspects and are hospitalized, according to various media reports.

The two wounded deputies “are recovering and are in good spirits,” Tregre said. The sheriff said his department is receiving calls and e-mails from throughout the nation.

The suspects arrested so far in the unfolding investigation are Kyle D. Joekel, Terry Lyn Smith, and Smith’s sons, Brian and Derrick Smith, who have lived in Tennessee and Louisiana, according to Lt. Robert Davidson of the DeSoto, La, Parish, who spoke with Hatewatch today. A fifth suspect, a woman, is also in custody but hasn’t been publicly identified.

“The intelligence information we got is that Terry Lyn Smith is one of those sovereign citizens,” Davidson said. “But these people run together and think together, so it’s likely the others have those leanings, too.”

Davidson said that Smith identified himself as a sovereign citizen last November  when he was served with a search warrant by officers in Robertson County, Tenn. That search turned up four rifles, ammunition and handguns, but it wasn’t immediately clear if arrests were made.

Other law enforcement sources indicated that Joekel also may have ties to the sovereign citizen movement. Joekel is wanted on state charges in both Nebraska and Kansas, Hatewatch learned today.

“We have an active warrant for his arrest,” Gage County Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson told Hatewatch when he was reached in Beatrice, Neb.

The sheriff said the warrant, issued Sept. 1, 2011, charges Joekel with conspiracy, resisting arrest, and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. The sheriff said he didn’t know what kind of drugs were involved.

Joekel is wanted in Marshall County, Kan., for “multiple felony charges” contained in a warrant issued last year after a police chase involving the Marysville, Kan., police department and Marshall County sheriff’s deputies. Tim Ackerman, the undersheriff in Marshall County, told Hatewatch that the pursuit ended when Joekel crashed the pickup truck he was driving into a private residence and fled.

Joekel fled on foot and eluded a massive manhunt involving state and local police agencies in Kansas and Nebraska, Ackerman said.

Ackerman said that during the manhunt he called the U.S. Secret Service headquarters after he developed information that Joekel possibly had made a threat against President Obama. The Secret Service said it had no information on Joekel and directed the Kansas sheriff’s office to the Terrorism Screening Center in Washington, D.C.

“They confirmed to me that he [Joekel] was on their ‘terrorist watch list’ but couldn’t provide any other information,” Ackerman told Hatewatch. “They told me he had a caseworker, a lead agent or somebody assigned to him, but that’s all they’d tell me.”

The undersheriff said he called the federal terrorism center on Aug. 22, 2011. Since that time, his office has obtained a felony arrest warrant for Joekel but has been unable to locate him.
Davidson said is appears that Joekel was living in an RV park in Louisiana in May.

“On May 22 of this year, we got a report of a break-in of a washeteria at the RV park,” Davidson told Hatewatch. Joekel and Derrick Smith were identified as suspects in that burglary, but formal charges haven’t been filed.

The law enforcement official said he didn’t know if the suspects had ties to any white supremacist or militia groups but said Terry Lin Smith has posed for pictures surrounded by AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition and handguns.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has produced a safety training video for law enforcement, detailing the deadly threats posed by sovereigns. More than 80,000 copies have been distributed to law enforcement agencies nationwide.

In May 2010, two West Memphis, Ark., police officers were shot dead when they stopped a father-son team of sovereigns. Two other officers were seriously wounded in a subsequent shoot-out that ended with the deaths of both sovereigns, Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son, Joe.

Last February, another sovereign citizen, James Michael Tesi, 49, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for shooting police officer John Fossett in July 2011 in Hurst, Texas, near Fort Worth. Tesi, an occupational therapist, was charged with aggravated assault on a public servant with a deadly weapon. The charge stems from a series of encounters he had with police for not wearing a seat belt, speeding, failing to show up in court and not producing a valid driver’s licenses.

  • Kiwiwriter

    I get so amused and annoyed when people whine about getting speeding tickets, red-light jumping tickets, and tickets for making illegal turns.

    They think they’re not criminals, but they are.

    They think they’re not doing something bad, but they are.

    When you speed, when you jump a red light, when you make an illegal turn, YOU ENDANGER LIVES! YOU BREAK THE LAW! People get killed by speeders, red-light jumpers, and illegal turners!

    And that could be precious, white, Aryan lives…old women, little girls, pregnant mothers.

    Go to those funerals and tell those people that they didn’t matter, and your hurried driving and going over the speed limit was more important than their lives. And while you’re at it, you can pay for their hospital bills and funeral bills.

    But I guess Sammy doesn’t care. He’s in too big a hurry to get wherever he’s going to care if his unsafe driving takes innocent lives.

    I love how the ubermensch don’t care about their colleagues…just about their own sorry selves. And they don’t take responsibility for their own actions…let me guess, a black drug dealer forced you to drive 10 miles over the limit.

    Oh, I forgot…the only people who commit crimes to you are “other people.” The cops are wasting their time going after you…when they started finally busting Mafiosi in the early 1960s, they complained to the media that they were not “real criminals,” either…that the FBI should go back to pursuing Communists.

    And Al Capone said that the only thing he was guilty of was “providing hospitality.”

    Sammy, you were driving too damn fast…you endangered lives, and broke the law. Pay your ticket, don’t do it again, and don’t blame the cops or the blacks for your own plight.

  • Reynardine

    Poor Sammy got a speeding ticket, and he’s white.

  • Sammy smitty

    It’s great to hear that there are citizens out there with the courage to sacrifice their freedom in order to rid the country of these useless, worthless, piles of shit! They claim to fight crime, but are never anywhere that crime actually takes place! Instead they are hiding out behind billboards harassing good people who may be doing five or ten mile over the speed limit! Clearly they can just take a short drive to a black neighborhood anywhere in the country, and stop the first person they see and find drugs, illegal guns or both! Quit harassing people and go fight crime!!!!!!!

  • Erika

    Actually its likely that someone pointed out to the people who were ready to secede the fact that Virginia’s economy depends upon federal government spending – take away federal agencies, federal employees, and federal contractors and about all that is left of Virginia’s economy is tobacco, coal, and peanuts. Which is to say that Virginia would be one very poor state.

  • CoralSea

    Thanks, Reynardine —

    It appears that the inmates really have been running the asylum with some of the state GOP organizations.

    I suppose that I personally need to dial it back and think of just how nightmarish all of this insanity must seem to the moderate Republicans who have been shunted aside (or have moved aside out of shock and horror at the tea party types). I know that there are a lot of them out there–such as my parents and a lot of my neighbors–who aren’t anywhere near as reactionary as these folks and must be wondering what the heck happened to their formerly staid party.

  • Reynardine

    Folks, the Republican Committee scrubbed the letter, but it has been preserved and reposted here:

  • CoralSea

    ModerateMike — thanks for the nod. I get this “government is evil — but why is there pollution” thing from a lot of other Right-Wing, survivalist type people who I have worked with over groundwater contamination issues in the past. They “hate” the government, but they also are furious that industry (and government, too, actually — the military is responsible for more than 100,000 contaminated sites in the U.S. alone) is allowed to pollute and otherwise misuse the environment.

    I have had some luck with the more reasonable militia types in convincing them that state environmental agency people just want to ensure that they have safe drinking water, but there is still this huge disconnect between wanting a safe environment (so they can live off the land) and also being leery of corporate environmental practices, and understanding that government plays a vital role in ensuring that we aren’t all choking to death on toxic clouds (an exaggeration, but only a bit).

    Reynardine — Holy cow! The Virginia Republican Committee is absolutely nuts! Can you imagine how they would react if, for example, African Americans made such a statement about what they would advocate if Romney is elected? And the GOP were among those who were stressing the “you need to be careful what you say” crap after 9/11! (And look at all of my dramatic punctuation!) The thing is, clearly there are people who are dead serious about this sort of thing. I can’t imagine how anyone could be that irresponsible (and on the heels of the flap over how SPLC “incited” the FRC shooting by designating that organization a “hate group.”) And yet a lot of the same people who are indignant over FRC’s “hate designation,” and believe the organization is being picked on, won’t bat an eye over statements such as the Virginia Republican Committee’s.

    Erika — If Obama is re-elected — which I fervently hope he will be — make sure you duck and cover. Or maybe take a trip out of Virginia to a solidly blue state (Bed & Breakfast in Vermont). We don’t want to lose you to the cross-fire!

  • aadila

    “I would be curious to see how many Americans have even a layman’s understanding of what actually precipitated the recession.”

    Well said! It is surprising for a society that is so driven by the desire to have and consume, with money being the great common denominator, to be so clueless about what drives the behavior of the economy.

    I would take this one step further and ask, how many Americans have even a layman’s understanding of how capitalism by its very nature leads to increasingly disastrous cycles of boom and bust.

    Recession is not the disease, it is the symptom. Capitalism is the disease. And its vector is greed.

  • ModerateMike

    Thank-you, Coral Sea, for your point about the irony of opposition to “government interference” when it was a lack thereof that led to the economic crisis. I would be curious to see how many Americans have even a layman’s understanding of what actually precipitated the recession.

    Reynardine, I read the article at the link that you posted, and I have to wonder why the people who wrote that letter are not being charged with sedition. I realize that there probably has to be some evidence to indicate that they are actively working to incite a rebellion, but even so, there are bound to be some people who will take these remarks seriously.

  • Erika

    Oh goody! While no doubt their attempt to take over the Norfolk Naval Shipyard with their hunting rifles, Confederate Flags, and Bibles would dramatically increase the collective IQ of Virginia, I’m scared of being caught in the cross fire..

  • Reynardine

    In fact, it is the Virginia Republican Committee which, in its newsletter, advised armed insurrection in the event of an Obama win this November. See today’s edition of

  • Reynardine

    It appears the Virginia Republican Party has called for armed insurrection if Obama wins a second term. It appears they forgot what happened last time. Meanwhile, our fate seems to be to live in interesting times (pass the coffee pot).

  • aadila

    My thoughts go out to the bereaved families of the slain officers. They gave their lives in selfless service of others and there can be no greater gift to society and humanity. They deserve great reverence.

    As for the shooters, punishing them with death will injure not just the offender’s mind, but also the mind of the person doing the punishing. My earnest hope is for a stop to the killing, now and everywhere.

  • ABC

    Sovereign citizens are very dangerous. A sovereign citizen was responsible for murdering Dr. Tiller in Wichita, KS. They like to attack police, judges, attorneys, abortion providers, bankers and anyone else they come into conflict with. I hope justice is served to the people responsible for killing the deputies.

  • CoralSea

    Sadness over this, to be sure. Police officers spend so much of their time helping people–their deaths are hurtful to their families, but they damage us all.

    I believe that many of the Sovereigns are a bit warped, to say the least, but certainly the recruitment to their, ah, cause? lifestyle? philosphy? — I guess it’s a little of all of these–is also driven by the economic turmoil, which ironically, came about from deregulating the financial sectors. This shows how ignorant many of them are.

    And, of course, the crazy pronouncements of some of the Tea Party people and other politicians have further inflamed them and confirmed their worst fears. Although I believe that most of the Tea Party rank and file (and a lot of the ones that managed to get into elected positions, including the U.S. Congress) actually believe the ridiculous, delusional, and in some cases racist and anti-immigrant rot they are spouting, others are simply adding to and exploiting fear of government, immigrants, what-have-you for their own gain in campaign funds, ratings, book sales, or notoriety. Never mind that desperate and paranoid people are taking them seriously and resorting to armed violence.

  • ModerateMike

    If any small solace is to come of this tragedy, perhaps it will be that DHS will be able to dismiss the remarks of the ranting “conservatives” who previously convinced them to dissolve their domestic terror analysis team.

  • Sam Molloy

    Not that I think Sovereigns are great thinkers, but I thought they recognized County Sheriffs as having authority. These idiots probably can’t even spell Sovereign. Robbing a laundromat? My heart goes out to the families of these brave officers, and I hope the SPLC will help them sue the last ten jurisdictions that let these animals loose on the public when they had them in custody.

  • Aron


    If you had half a brain in your head, you would know that Reynardine was criticizing the Louisiana government.

    And that you are also COMPLETELY misinformed regarding what a ‘hate group’ actually is.

  • Scott

    Has anybody told these sovereign nuts that murder is covered by common law? I’m not sure they know what common law means.

  • Carlos

    Don’t say that to loud in this website Reynardine, or they will be listing that sheriff dept. A hate group for wanting to put those cop-killers on a gurney and stick a needle in their arms.

  • Aron

    Oh dear Rey, I do believe you’re right.

    Once again, makes me glad I live here in Massachusetts.

  • diAnnA

    My heart breaks for the families who lost their loved ones performing their duties as Law Enforcement Officers.also,get well soon to the 2 Deputies shot+hospitalized.The St.John Parish Sheriff’s Office have suffered terrible loss.You,too,are in our thoughts.It seems senseless violence strikes everyday-I am grateful to all Law Enforcement Officers who’ve sworn to protect+serve.The SPLC is top-notch in identifying/tracking domestic threadangerous people+hats-off to the good people in Montgomery

  • Reynardine

    Maybe not all that long, Aron. In Louisiana, they put them to sleep.

  • Aron

    Oh, those poor police officers. My heart goes out to their families.

    And the suspected perps? I hope they like the appearance of untainted cinder block. Because where they’re going, they’ll be looking at that for a long time.