Skip to main content

'The Sociopath Next Door': 'Sovereign' on a Rampage

Three useful tips for dealing with an antigovernment "sovereign citizen":

1. Don't ask him for his driver's license.

2. Don't ask him, "Did you file your federal tax return yet?"

3. Don't run out of crawfish.

A man claiming to be a sovereign citizen – that is, someone who, though living in this country, claims to be exempt from state and federal laws – was charged this week with shooting up a seafood store near Pensacola, Fla., with an assault-style rifle Sunday evening after being told it was sold out of crawfish.

Investigators believe Larry Wayne Kelly called the L&T Seafood Market near closing time at 5 p.m. Sunday to order crawfish and became "incredibly irate" when told there wasn't any left, according to the Pensacola News Journal. The business' caller ID logged 11 calls from Kelly in a 20-minute span. Police believe Kelly drove to the store about two hours later and fired at least 11 AK-47 rounds into the unoccupied store, which had closed for the day. No one was injured.

Witnesses on Sunday reported seeing a man in a pickup truck driving through the streets of Ensley, Fla., firing a rifle from the window. At one point, the man got out of the truck and fired a number of rounds into the fish market. Shortly afterward, police spotted Kelly in a Ford Ranger that matched the witnesses' descriptions, parked about 10 blocks away. Kelly first tried to run over two officers who approached on foot, then, in an ensuing chase, sideswiped one patrol car and rammed another before being captured, police said.

The owner of the L&T Seafood Market, Tommy Nguyen, had a hard time understanding what sparked the rampage. He told the News Journal he had sold out of crawfish by Sunday due to high holiday-weekend demand. "If you don't have crawfish, you can get crab or something else," Nguyen said. "Why is crawfish so important?"

In Kelly's truck, police found four loaded guns, one of them an AK-47, and a copy of the book The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, according to the website TPMMuckraker. The book asserts that one in 25 Americans is a clinical sociopath capable of violating any ethical code without feeling shame, guilt or remorse. The website reported further that Kelly described himself to officers as a "sovereign citizen" who doesn't have to follow the law.

Kelly apparently manifests several other telltale traits of antigovernment sovereign citizens. According to the News Journal, he has filed dozens of strangely worded lawsuits, a tactic common among sovereign practitioners. Also, Kelly's truck bore a homemade license plate, another sign.

Those claiming to be sovereign citizens are not part of a formal organization, but rather have bought into a set of beliefs that include thinking they can remove themselves from the jurisdiction of the federal and state governments through the filing of specifically worded, but legally bogus, court filings. They believe they are not obligated to pay taxes or to use any form of government documentation or identification.

Sovereign citizens have been known to occasionally resist police authority with violence. The most notorious case was that of Jerry and Joe Kane, a father-and-son team who killed two West Memphis, Ark., police officers last summer during a routine traffic stop, before being shot and killed themselves by police an hour later. Still, a case such as Kelly's is unusual in that his alleged rampage wasn't triggered by government representatives attempting to assert authority over him.

Kelly was described as an "upstanding citizen, family man and an incredible single father" by one of several commenters on who claimed to know him personally.

He is being held on $575,000 bond on charges of fleeing police, aggravated assault, weapons violations, firing at a building, firing from a vehicle and criminal mischief.

Comments, suggestions or tips? Send them to and follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.