Tyler Smith seemed to want to stand out among his fellow “Doomsday Preppers” – at least, that was the impression the Buckley, Wash., man gave in his Nov. 12, 2013, appearance on the National Geographic TV series that examines the efforts of fearful survivalists to prepare for a possible social and economic meltdown. Unlike most of the show’s participants – who often seem eager to assure viewers that they intend no one any harm and their efforts are merely defensive in nature -- Smith, a large 26-year-old man with close-cropped hair and a red goatee, seemed eager to strike fear into the audience.
“We’re not in it to stockpile,” he proclaimed in a segment that was used to promote the show. “We’re in it to take what you have, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. We are your worst nightmare, and we are coming.”
It was language such as this that got the attention of local law-enforcement authorities – especially after they ascertained that Smith, who was featured firing all kinds of weapons he and his friends had stockpiled, in fact was a convicted felon forbidden to own or use weapons. He was arrested by Pierce County deputies on Wednesday.
Smith has two felonies on his record already: In 2009, court records show, Smith was caught fondling a 14-year-old girl in an Auburn parking lot and wound up pleading guilty to “communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.” In 2009, after failing to pay for a motorcycle he purchased, he pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in Pierce County.
Smith’s Doomsday Preppers episode was remarkable for his aggressive stance. Smith, like many far-right conspiracy theorists, believes a “series of domestic terrorism attacks” are going to force the government into a dictatorial military stance, at which point he believes society will break down. Unlike most of the show’s previous participants, he did not insist that his position was purely a defensive one.
Rather the opposite: He told the show’s producers that he only had a few months’ supplies for his family because he intended to aggressively assault his neighbors and steal their food and weapons caches.
“All your shiny ARs, your high powered.308 rifles, your 50,000 rounds of ammo, are all going to be ours,” he said on the show.
Smith’s apocalyptic fears were blended with violent fantasies about life after the great social breakdown. "When the shit hits the fan, the people that are gonna survive are the people who are prepared to do whatever it takes,” he is heard saying – just before a simulated scene showed Smith and cohorts invading a home, putting guns to the heads of people in their bedrooms and taping them up.
Smith tried hard to be incendiary. "Most preppers talk about how they're afraid of the mass people that are going to come take their supplies,” he said. “We are those people. We are the people that are going to come kick your door in, take your supplies, and just leave you behind. And there is nothing you can really do about it. We are the marauders. We are your worst nightmare. And we are coming."
Much of his energy in the program is devoted to constructing a homemade set of body armor. Smith told viewers what he intended to make: "My armor is going to protect my head, my chest and vital organs, it's going to be lightweight and stronger than anything you can buy in the store,” he said.
“It's gonna protect me day to day, and when I go out and I'm kicking doors down and I'm kicking in store windows. It's also going to make me the apex predator in my area, and that's all that matters."
That “apex predator” was mostly seen roaming the Pierce County countryside in a rattle-trap old pickup and then piecing together some dubious-looking armor. At the show’s end, he persuaded his cousin to shoot him with a round from a .12-gauge shotgun in the armor as he wore it; it appeared to only deflect off the armor and away harmlessly, though the absence of shot-pellet spray from the round suggested it may have been only a blank in any event.
Smith was unabashed about his aggressive plans for taking other people’s stores: “My advice to any of you preppers out there is to keep on buying your ammo, keep on buying your guns, your food, your bulletproof vests, and all your camping equipment. Because we'll be by shortly to take all of it.”
“His stated plan was not to defend himself but to use weapons he illegally possessed, to rob his neighbors at gunpoint,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said in a news release. “Did he really think that this wouldn’t attract our attention?”
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said the Buckley man came to the department’s attention “by people all over the country bringing him to our attention.”
“Reality TV crashed into reality,” he said.
National Geographic issued a brief statement: “We are aware of the arrest, and have decided not to air this episode until all legal matters are sorted out.
One of the more remarkable segments of Smith’s “Doomsday Preppers” episode involved his preparations for conducting a Caesarean Section surgical operation on his pregnant wife in case the end of the world came before she could give birth. Smith can be seen, hunkered under a plastic tent, drawing a dotted line in the place where he believed the incision should be made and running an encased scalpel along it; notably, his wife did not seem so assured he would be able to pull off the operation.
According to the News Tribune, Smith first tried to claim that the filming had occurred before his 2009 convictions, though it occurred on a property he lived on afterwards. Moreover, the footage showing his pregnant wife had to have occurred afterwards as well, since she was not pregnant in 2009.