New Threat to Cops: 'Sovereign Citizens'

FBI warns that anti-government crusaders can easily turn violent
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2012 8:32 AM CST
New Threat to Cops: 'Sovereign Citizens'
In this detail from a West Memphis Police Department video taken May 20, 2010, and released Wednesday, June 30, 2010, Joseph Kane is shown exiting a van with an AK-47 assault rifle.   (AP Photo/West Memphis Police dept.)

Anti-government crusaders have apparently become dangerous enough that the FBI issued an official warning about them yesterday. These extremists sometimes call themselves "sovereign citizens," and they may refuse to pay taxes, defy government regulations, or argue fervently for a return to the gold standard. They also pose a threat to law enforcement authorities, the FBI said at a news conference. Two police officers were killed after pulling over a sovereign citizen in 2010, and last year another extremist shot at an officer during a traffic stop, but did not hit him.

Sovereign citizens believe they should not have to submit to government authority, so any routine law enforcement encounter could become violent "at the drop of a hat," one agent explained. Because of sovereign citizens' anti-tax beliefs, IRS employees may also be at risk, Reuters notes. While the FBI does not have an official tally of sovereign citizens, one analyst estimates there are about 100,000 of them. Ten were legally convicted in 2009, and that number increased to 18 in both 2010 and 2011, but most of the convictions were for white-collar crimes. (Read more anti-government sentiment stories.)

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