Charles Dyer is something of problem for the Oath Keepers, a group that started three years ago to encourage police officers and military personnel to disobey unconstitutional orders. A veteran Marine with time served in Iraq, he might have seemed to be a model of the kind of person the group wants to attract.
But then the self-described Oath Keepers member went on the lam in Oklahoma to avoid trial on charges that he raped a child. He issued threatening, conspiracy-theorizing communiqués that left no room for doubt as to his intentions were police to catch up with him.
“I have been pushed to the limits by law enforcement and the judicial system in an attempt to cause me to take violent actions against them,” Dyer wrote in an E-mail to his family. “Our judicial system is nothing more than a system of liars and crooks working under the color of the law, where the rich go free and the poor are made to suffer injustice. … Something must be done to expose it.”
The search for Dyer began Monday after he failed to appear in court for a trial on charges that he raped and forcibly sodomized his 7-year-old daughter. (At the time of his arrest, he also was charged with possessing a grenade launcher stolen from the military in 2006; he was later acquitted of that charge.) His lawyer, his bail bondsman and his family have no idea where he’s gone. And in what has to be one of the more interesting twists to the search, last week police arrested Dyer’s girlfriend for suspected arson in burning down his house.
“This is a very desperate and dangerous individual who is heavily armed and needs to be found quickly,” Oklahoma’s Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney said. "What concerns me is his ties with some of these very radical groups," McKinney told Oklahoma City's KFOR-TV.
The Oath Keepers has worked to put distance between itself and Dyer, with group founder Stewart Rhodes – a Yale Law School graduate and former aide to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul – insisting that Dyer was not a “dues-paying” member. And perhaps it wouldn’t be fair to tar the Oath Keepers with the unrelated crimes of one of its members — as a tendentious story in the conservative Human Events magazine claimed earlier this week — if he was the only case in question. But there are a number of others that cast doubt on Rhodes’ oft-repeated claim that his group is nothing more than a batch of perfectly sober and reasonable defenders of the Constitution.
In April 2010, Matthew Fairfield, who was described by a prosecutor as the president of an Oath Keepers chapter in Ohio, was jailed on 54 counts related to allegations he stored a live napalm bomb at his home, along with other explosives kept at a friend’s home. That same month, a man driving a pickup ornamented with Oath Keepers logos was arrested in Tennessee for plotting to “arrest” two local officials with whom he didn’t agree – a method historically employed by many in the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement.
The Stephens County Sheriff’s Department has said the search for Dyer will continue, and law enforcement officers have been told to consider Dyer well armed and extremely dangerous. The tone of that final E-mail Dyer sent to his parents suggests that warning might be more than over-cautious police work. “If you do not hear from me within 90 days,” Dyer wrote in his final caustic lines, “then I am dead and I have failed you.”