The Southern Poverty Law Center in January sued the Aryan Nations, its leader Richard Butler, and several followers who allegedly terrorized a woman and her son.

The Center's complaint states that members of the Aryan Nations security force shot at Victoria Keenan and her son Jason and chased them for over two miles as the Keenans drove down a public road that passes the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. After the Keenans' car was forced into a ditch, the suit claims, the Aryan Nations security force members held the Keenans at gunpoint and battered and threatened to kill them.

The complaint states that the Aryan Nations security force had been authorized by Butler to use violence against outsiders seen as threats to the Aryan Nations.

The suit names nine defendants:

  • Butler, the Aryan Nations' founder and leader;
  • Saphire, Inc., a corporation controlled by Butler that owns the Aryan Nations compound;
  • Jesse Edward Warfield, the Aryan Nations security chief;
  • John Yeager and Shane Wright, both members of the security force; and
  • Three unidentified members of the security force.

The suit seeks damages to compensate the Keenans for their injuries and an injunction to prevent a reoccurrence of similar incidents.

The Aryan Nations has been one of the country's most notorious white supremacist groups for over two decades. In the 1980s, Aryan Nations followers helped form The Order, a terrorist group whose crimes ranged from armored car robberies to murder. In the 1990s, members of the Aryan Republican Army, a group with close ties to the Aryan Nations, carried out more than 20 bank robberies to fund a white supremacist revolution.

Aryan Nations members adhere to the Christian Identity philosophy, a religion that teaches that Aryans are the true chosen people and must prepare for a coming race war.

In 1998, the Aryan Nations was active in at least seven states. But because of its long history and its hosting of a nationwide gathering of white supremacists each summer, its influence is far greater than the number of its members alone would imply.

The lawsuit against the Aryan Nations is one of a series that the Center has brought against hate groups for the violent actions of their members. In its most recent case, the Center won a multimillion-dollar judgment last year against the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for burning a black church in South Carolina.