Moorish sovereign shoots three police officers, killing one

On Friday, February 9, 2018, two Henry County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home of Tierre Guthrie in Locust Grove, Georgia, to serve an arrest warrant related to his failure to appear in court.

 Locust Grove is a small, but growing, town of just under 6,000 people and is located about 40 miles southeast of Atlanta. Guthrie had reportedly skipped his court hearing for a minor traffic violation.

Tierre Guthrie was a relatively newcomer to Georgia, having recently moved there from Connecticut. According to media sources, Guthrie once owned a freight company, but his business employed just one driver (himself). Guthrie had also enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps several years ago. According to a sister, Tierre had been unemployed for the past two months and was actively seeking work.

 As they arrived on scene, Deputies Michael Corley and Ralph “Sid” Callaway likely saw the sign plastered to the front of Guthrie’s residence that read “Private Property: No Trespassing. Violators Will Be Prosecuted.” Despite this warning placard, the deputies had no reason to expect the situation to turn violent since the warrant involved a minor charge. As the deputies attempted to take him into custody, Guthrie reportedly became agitated and combative.

“It was obvious the individual wasn't going to go, that's why they called the Locust Grove officer to give more assistance,” Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer said.  Officer Chase Maddox, a five-year veteran of the Locust Grove Police Department, arrived on scene to assist the deputies with arresting Guthrie.

As Maddox arrived, the situation quickly deteriorated and a physical altercation erupted between Guthrie and the deputies. Both sides drew their weapons and fired at each other. Neighbors reported hearing gunshots from inside the residence soon after Maddox’s arrival. During the gunfight, Maddox was struck three times by gunfire, once in the head. Both deputies were also struck as they attempted to fend off Guthrie’s violent aggression. Guthrie’s girlfriend and three small children, who were in the house, were not injured.

In the immediate aftermath, first responders learned that Guthrie had also been shot four times (twice in the chest) by the deputies. Guthrie died at the scene. Officer Maddox was rushed to a local hospital where he later died. The two deputies were also transported to the hospital. One deputy was released later that day. The other remains in stable condition after having emergency surgery.

Many details of what lead up to the shooting remain unclear. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has now taken over the investigation. At this time, investigators do not know who fired first, but they’ve determined there were at least nine shots fired inside the home. Details about Guthrie’s background, however, soon began to emerge.

According to his sister, Guthrie was sympathetic to the Black Nationalist movement. About two weeks ago, Guthrie reportedly called his sister Claudette Wright in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. According to media reports, their conversation quickly deteriorated when Guthrie began espousing extreme anti-government views and bizarre conspiracy theories. This was apparently a recurring theme of conversation in recent years. Wright said that during previous conversations Guthrie told her “that black people don’t have to pay for car insurance because we own the land.” She said Guthrie was also suspicious of public education. As a result, he had his children pulled out of public schools and home schooled them.

Indeed, a review of Guthrie’s social media sites and postings reveal that he recently became a Moorish sovereign citizen around February 2016. On February 9, 2016, Guthrie posted a message to a Moorish Science Temple of America site stating “Peace. I am a newcomer and I am here to learn.” Further, Guthrie’s Facebook page contains this warning, “My purpose is to share things that you may not see anywhere else… As a result, some of my posts may offend you.”

According to a neighbor, Guthrie had prior police encounters at his residence. Guthrie supposedly once told the neighbor that he didn’t recognize law enforcement authority and they did not have a right to step on his property.

Moorish sovereigns are an African-American offshoot of the predominantly Caucasian sovereign citizen movement. Its members, called Moors, comprise a loose-knit network of independent Moorish organizations that emerged in the early 1990s. According to Moorish related websites, they believe Moors have descended from ancient indigenous civilizations such as the “Moabites,” “Canaanites,” and black Native Americans. Moors believe this ancestry provides sovereignty over, and independence from, federal, state, and local governments.

Like other sovereign citizen groups, Moorish sovereign ideology breeds anti-government and anti-law enforcement sentiment through its radical ideology, which can inspire members to intimidate, threaten and harass government officials and law enforcement officers. Moorish sovereigns are also known to produce fraudulent legal documents which they use against perceived enemies — especially publically elected officials they view as corrupt.  Several recent incidents highlight Moorish sovereigns’ propensity for violence and criminal activity, such as the January 2017 shooting and vehicular assault of law enforcement officers in Orlando, Florida, by Markeith D. Loyd, and the July 2016 ambush killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by Gavin Eugene Long.