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Sovereign citizen surrenders to SWAT after mistakenly setting his shoes on fire

On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, Horry County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) deputies attempted to serve a Writ of Assistance court order (e.g. an eviction notice) on Bernard Emmanuel Jackson, 37, in Conway, South Carolina.

According to the Sheriff’s news release, the court order directed the Sheriff of Horry County “by whatever force necessary, to eject, remove from the premises, the occupants and their personal possessions from the real property.”

As deputies arrived at Jackson’s home around noon, the suspect reportedly saw them and abruptly went inside the house. Jackson was then heard locking doors and observed pulling the window shades down on the main level.

The deputies attempted to coerce Jackson to come outside, but immediately retreated when a “loud noise” was heard inside the residence. The deputies formed a perimeter and called the Horry County Police Department’s (HCPD) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team to take control of the situation.

As SWAT arrived, negotiators with the FBI, HCSD and the HCPD attempted to make contact with Jackson, but there was no answer from inside the home. A four-hour standoff ensued.

Around 4 p.m. authorities determined that Jackson was the only person inside the house. Negotiations had failed and now the situation transitioned into a tactical operation.

SWAT members breached the locked door and entered the residence to search for Jackson. While inside, authorities reported a strong odor of gasoline. Once the main level was cleared, SWAT proceeded to search the second level. As the tactical team reached the stairway, Jackson emerged from around the corner of the second floor and lit the stairs on fire. SWAT was forced to exit the house until the fire was extinguished.

Unbeknownst to the police, Jackson had mistakenly lit his shoes on fire causing minor burns to his feet. At this point, Jackson decided to surrender due to his injuries. He finally exited the house and was immediately taken into custody as well as received medical treatment. Jackson was charged with criminal trespassing, resisting arrest, and second-degree arson.

Previous law enforcement encounters revealed that Jackson and his wife “believe they are not U.S. citizens and are not subject to the laws and authority of the United States or any courts in the Unites States or the State of South Carolina,” according to a police press release. For this reason, police claim Jackson and his wife are reportedly ‘sovereign citizens.’ Authorities did not discuss any additional details concerning Jackson’s alleged sovereign citizen beliefs. 

According to the FBI, “sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or 'sovereign' from the United States.” Sovereign citizens have been known to carry out recent violent attacks against law enforcement. They have also threatened and retaliated against other government officials. For this reason, the FBI considers some members of the sovereign citizen movement a domestic terrorist threat.

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