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A man who was found with more than 145 pounds of explosives in Brisbane, Calif., might have connections to the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement, an extremist ideology whose adherents believe they don’t have to obey most laws or pay taxes.
Police said William Harrell, 46, completed a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing in Kentucky that listed himself as a debtor to himself in 2010, a tactic used by some sovereigns in an attempt to free themselves of financial obligations. Yet investigators remain unsure whether Harrell is a true believer in the ideology, or rather someone who has merely dabbled in sovereign tactics.
“There is nothing independent of the UCC filing indicating he was part of any organization,” Brisbane Police Cmdr. Bob Meisner told Hatewatch.
Police found the explosives earlier this month in the apartment Harrell shared with his girlfriend and her two children. Officers responded to a report of a domestic argument, and as Harrell began to leave, his girlfriend showed officers a locked closet, which she believed may have contained guns, the San Mateo County Times reported.
Inside, police found 145 pounds of explosives, mostly dynamite, a pound of marijuana and $37,000.
Harrell faces several felonies stemming from the discovery, including possessing explosives, selling marijuana and child endangerment. He pleaded not guilty on Oct. 4 and is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 5.
Harrell’s possible connections to the sovereign citizen movement surfaced when J.J. MacNab, a tax and insurance expert who has studied the movement, contacted the Brisbane Police Department after finding Harrell’s UCC filing. Adherents to the strange subculture believe that they – not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials – get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. “Something has happened to their lives that turned off a common sense switch,” MacNab said. “They are not stupid or pathetic, naïve or poor.”
Police say they don’t know how Harrell intended to use the explosives.
But what is certain is that sovereigns have been dangerous. The FBI considers sovereigns to be a “domestic terrorism movement.” They’ve killed four law enforcement officers since May 20, 2010, when a father and son team of sovereigns gunned down two police officers in West Memphis, Ark.
Harrell’s girlfriend, who has not been identified in news reports, has said that Harrell had begun the process of becoming a sovereign citizen when police arrested him.