Police stopped to help stranded motorists and came face-to-face with a family of Moorish Sovereign Citizens, some of whom fought with officers, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Moorish Sovereigns, according to their Facebook page, consider themselves to be indigenous people to the Americas and not subject to laws enacted through European colonization.
An Indianapolis couple, Lenora Jackson and Carl Dowd, explained to police that they are members of the Moorish Society and not subject to federal, state and local laws, nor arrest by local law enforcement, and they gave police a pamphlet explaining their government, Thorntown Deputy Chief Derek Babcock wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
Jackson had called 911 asking for help when the car in which they traveled with an 18-year-old and two children ran out of gas and the battery died at about 2 a.m. June 5, according to court records.
But Dowd, 37, was belligerent from the beginning of their contact with local police, and the children moved to defend him from police, Babcock wrote in the affidavit.
The stranded car’s fictitious license plate read “United States of America Republic,” and police could not determine who owned the car because it lacked proper registration, Babcock reported.
Babcock explained that he’d have to impound the car, as it was not legal to drive at the moment, and “at this point, all parties got heated and attempted to explain their republic, and stated it was a validly registered vehicle …” Babcock wrote.
Dowd demanded to speak to a supervisor and repeatedly called 911, tying up the line and refusing to identify himself or provide identification, and he then incited his family, causing them to become disorderly, Babcock reported, adding that he called for extra police to ensure safety for all.
Dowd continued to “carry on,” the children refused to move back, Jackson refused to move the children away from the car and authorities, and the oldest child attempted to push through two sheriff’s deputies, swinging at Babcock and nearly hitting him, according to court records.
Officers discovered a 9 mm handgun and ballistic vest in the back of the car, Babcock reported.
Dowd carried a leather badge holder with a an identity card issued by the “Province of Indiana,” indicating he is a Lt. Marshal of the United States of America Republic, and Dowd told police they could not arrest him because “I am a law enforcement officer too,” according to the court file.
Jackson attempted to explain the “new government,” and permissions granted to the Moorish Society, but Babcock explained to her that the U.S. Government doesn’t recognize her government, according to the affidavit.
“The Moorish sovereign citizen movement is a collection of independent organizations and lone individuals who emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the antigovernment sovereign citizens movement, adherents of which believe that individual citizens hold sovereignty over, and are independent of, the authority of federal and state governments,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups.
Some Moorish citizens have become violent with government officials and law enforcement, according to the SPLC. Babcock had prior experience with sovereign citizens, and took extra safety precautions for police and the family in his interactions with them, he reported.
“They have the idea that they have the authority to essentially detach themselves from the United States,” SPLC research analyst Freddy Cruz told The Washington Post. “So they do things like refusing to pay taxes, get driver’s licenses, or register firearms, and they try to get their members to challenge those federal laws.”
Dowd is charged with impersonation of a public official and resisting law enforcement and scheduled for an October trial.
Jackson and the children were allowed to leave the county, but police are also seeking charges against them, including disorderly conduct for all four, resisting law enforcement for three, and possession of a handgun without a license for Jackson.