On 28 May, a Bexar county deputy sheriff was shot and killed while sitting in his patrol car at a traffic light at Rigsby and 410. I did not blog about it then and haven't because, frankly, I couldn't figure out what the hell to say. The murder was completely random. Sgt. Vann was sitting at a red light. Not chasing someone. Not trying to arrest someone, or responding to a call or even pulling someone over to issue them a traffic ticket. Just sitting at a stoplight.
It was, to all appearances, a crime of opportunity. Sgt Vann was targeted because he was in a marked patrol car. Someone wanted to kill a cop and he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sheriff Ortiz initially thought the killing might have something to do with drug cartels. Me, I thought gang (given the area it happened in, this was a fairly good possibility). I really, really didn't think the murderer would be found. Thankfully, I was wrong. Mark Anthony Gonzales was on (prescription) drugs and alcohol, which is sadly not an uncommon combination around here.
As of right now, there is no indication that Gonzales had any connections to anyone other than himself. Which brings me to this:
The Bandera County Sheriff's Office issued a warning Thursday to citizens about an anti-government movement known for acts of domestic terrorism.
The law enforcement agency said followers of The Sovereign Citizens Movement have been known to carry out violent acts, including killing law enforcement officers and other public servants.
The sheriff's office told KSAT-12 News the warning was prompted by the recent shooting death of Bexar County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Kenneth Vann.
"We have domestic terrorism right at our doorstep," said Capt. Charlie Hicks of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office.Hicks said while there's no evidence Vann's death had any links to the Sovereign Citizens, it's the same type of crime followers are known for.I've left the link intact, by the way, so you can look at the PDF of the warning if you want to.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am not a supporter of this movement. Frankly I think its members are none too swift. But I also think that labeling them "domestic terrorists" takes things a bit far.
From the warning:
Sovereigns believe that they--not judges, juries, law enforcement, or elected officials--get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don't think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up courts with indecipherable findings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration, and, in the most extreme cases, deadly violence, usually directed against government officials.
Chief Smith goes on to discuss the sovereign citizens who murdered two West Memphis, Arkansas police officers last year. Fair point, and I can see warning law enforcement about them. Training LEOs in the safest ways of dealing with these idiots should they be pulled over is a great idea. But a general "keep an eye on your neighbors and tell us if they're acting funny" warning to the public just doesn't sit well with me. For one, both the warning and the FBI seem to agree that these people aren't usually violent. From the story about the WM shooting:
But the FBI lists this extremist movement as a domestic terrorist threat, saying some "sovereign citizens" murder, threaten judges, use fake currency and engineer various mortgage fraud scams. Many don't pay taxes.The danger here, as I see it, is twofold. One, it seems that law enforcement is going to be at least tempted to shove a lot of people into this movement post-crime, giving a skewed picture of a group of movements (and quite possibly distracting them from the rise of something truly deadly). Two, it may well lead to further problems for folks who aren't sovereign citizens but are some other flavor of weird: survivalists, freebirthers, maybe a few homesteaders and homeschoolers. The fine folks in Bandera want you to report anyone whom you think might be involved in this movement and who is engaged in 'suspicious activity.'
Man, I do a lot of stuff that is suspicious. Worse yet, I'm a loner, a right-winger, and I routinely question authority (in the form of the government-run school my daughters attend, anyhow). Promise I'm not going to flip my shit and start shooting the police, though.