LAS VEGAS — A foiled plot to kidnap and execute Las Vegas police officers shows the potential for violence from a growing “sovereign citizen” movement that renounces government and is considered a domestic terror group at its extremes, experts and investigators said Friday.
Allegations that David Allen Brutsche, 42, and Devon Campbell Newman, 67, planned to confront police officers during traffic stops and kill them if they resisted show the possible volatility of official interactions with people committed to fighting governmental authority, they said.
“You look at their motivation — being that the government that gives the officer authority isn’t viable — and if they get a following, it’s a threat to be reckoned with,” said Kory Flowers, a Greensboro, N.C., police detective who studies sovereign citizen groups and teaches police about them.
“Even if it’s a crackpot idea, four or five guys can be a tactical assault team,” he said.
Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., counted seven killings of law enforcement officers by alleged sovereign citizen members in the past 10 years in South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and California.
Brutsche and Newman stood before a judge Friday and told him they didn’t recognize his authority to keep them in jail.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen had none of it.
“So noted,” he responded.
The judge made sure Brutsche and Newman read the criminal complaints against them, then sent them back to jail pending a Sept. 9 preliminary hearing on charges of felony conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping.
Police allege that Brutsche and Newman held training sessions about sovereign citizen philosophy, shopped for guns, found a vacant house to serve as a “jail” and prepared methods to bind captives.
A police report alleges that the two planned to post videos about their actions and sovereign citizen ideology after the first abduction.