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An armed “sovereign citizen,” accused of printing his own currency and defying government authority, was shot and killed in Florida last weekend after a four-hour standoff with a police SWAT team.
Like so many law enforcement encounters with sovereign citizens, the case involving Jeffrey Allen Wright began with a routine traffic stop before quickly escalating. Wright attempted to pay his traffic fine with counterfeit money, then refused to acknowledge courts had jurisdiction over him when additional charges were filed against him.
When Santa Rosa County sheriff’s deputies and other officers went to Wright’s home in Navarre, Fla., last Friday night to arrest him on counterfeiting charges, the 55-year-old man barricaded himself in the residence and fired a shot, apparently from an automatic firearm, officials said.
Ordered by deputies to come out unarmed, Wright responded, “Come and get me,” according to a press release from the Santa Rose County Sheriff’s Office.
When SWAT team members fired tear gas into the second story of the home’s attached garage, Wright began breaking out windows with a handgun, the release said. Moments later, when SWAT officers entered the home, they found Wright sitting at the top of a stairwell. The department’s press release said that Wright raised his pistol and pointed it directly at the SWAT members. Three officers simultaneously shot Wright, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The officers involved were Sgt. Nathan Hall, Deputy Brian Miller and Detective Jerry Nash., the Daily News in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., reported. The officers, who weren’t injured, were placed on paid administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the shooting.
During the standoff, Wright made several threats, saying at one point that deputies better not come up the stairs or they would “not come back down,” and adding that if deputies “ever want to see your families again, back down,” the newspaper reported.
Wright also boasted during the standoff that he was “would not be a servant of the king” because he was not a citizen of this country. That kind of language is typical of so-called sovereign citizens, who believe they are not subject to most federal tax and criminal laws. Such people are also known for creating fraudulent documents and negotiable instruments.
Court documents say that on five occasions Wright attempted to pay for his traffic citations and criminal charges issued by using fraudulent money orders valid for $15 million.
Extremists from the antigovernment “sovereign citizen” movement are known for their frequent run-ins with police, often because they have invalid driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations. Most sovereigns don’t believe the government has any right to regulate driving in this country.
Since 2000, six law enforcement officers in the United States have been killed by “sovereign citizens.”
Two West Memphis, Ark., officers were killed by a father-son team of sovereigns during a traffic stop in May 2010. Last August, near New Orleans, two antigovernment “sovereign citizens” were responsible for fatally shooting two sheriff’s deputies and the wounding of two others. And then, last October in Memphis, Tenn., a woman claiming to be a sovereign citizen was arrested after she refused to exit her vehicle during a traffic stop and drove away, hitting two Memphis officers in the process.
In 2011, the FBI issued a report saying the loose network of sovereign citizens comprise the greatest domestic terrorism threat in the United States.