Two people accused of plotting to capture and kill a Las Vegas police officer as part of a domestic terrorist movement were arrested Tuesday after a months-long undercover investigation.
David Allan Brutsche, 42, and Devon Campbell Newman, 67, alleged to belong to a “sovereign citizen movement,” were arrested by Las Vegas police counter-terrorism officers and booked Wednesday on charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, among other charges.
Police had been investigating Brutsche and Newman since April. The undercover detectives met with the suspects about 30 times and secretly recorded hundreds of hours of the conversations, according to a police report.
The pair “expressed a deep hatred” for police and targeted officers for “perceived violations of Constitutional Civil Rights” during traffic stops, the report said.
Brutsche and Newman planned to kidnap a random police officer using a team of “sovereign citizens,” place the officer in a makeshift “jail” and try the officer in their own court.
After obtaining a “conviction,” the pair planned to execute the officer, the report said.
The “sovereign citizen movement” is a loose group of citizens who claim they don’t answer to U.S. laws, oppose taxes, and especially dislike police. They are considered a domestic terror threat by the FBI and there are about 100,000 “hardcore” members of the movement, according to a 2010 Southern Poverty Law Center report.
Many of the members have criminal backgrounds, including Brutsche. He is a six-time convicted felon and a registered sex offender for crimes committed against a minor in California, the report said.
Brutsche told undercover officers the pair researched how to execute their plot on the Internet. He told detectives in May that they would soon be arresting police officers and judges.
They would carry guns because “police have guns so why shouldn’t we have them as well,” the report said.
“We have the right to stop the cops by killing them,” Brutsche told the officers in June, according to the report.
In June the pair hosted a sovereign citizen ideology class where they attempted to recruit members. The early plan called for members to follow officers’ patrol cars and record them on video. If the officer attempted to arrest a person, the sovereign citizens would step in and demand the person’s release, the report said.
If the officer resisted, the members would have to “kill the cop,” the report said. Several undercover detectives attended the class posing as sympathizers.
Newman told one undercover detective she would create a master list of code words so law enforcement couldn’t figure out their plan if their phones were bugged, the report said.
By August, the pair had moved beyond the “planning stages.” An undercover officer took the pair to an empty, police-controlled house where the pair began fortifying the home for their “jail,” the report said.
After the killing, the pair planned to dispose of the officer’s body using bleach, vinegar and heavy-duty trash bags, the report said.
Brutsche also had the undercover officer film a statement to the public explaining their cause, the report said.
Lt. Jim Seebock said more people could face charges. He declined to elaborate on the case, citing the ongoing investigation.
Members of the sovereign citizens movement have attacked police in the past. In 2010, two police officers in West Memphis, Ark., were gunned down by Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son, Joseph, after a routine traffic stop.
The Kanes, who were killed in an ensuing gun battle, were deeply involved in the movement, authorities said.
Las Vegas police said it was fortunate that Brutsche and Newman were arrested before they could act on their violent plan.
After his arrest, Brutsche first used “sovereign citizen legalese” to dismiss the officer’s Miranda warning, but finally acknowledged his constitutional rights. He denied the plot.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.