FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Two members of a notorious family that authorities say once tried to set up a whites-only nation in America were arrested this week in Arizona on federal firearms charges after a raid on a sprawling ranch netted dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Kirby Kehoe and his 37-year-old son, Cheyne, had an initial court appearance Tuesday in Flagstaff. Cheyne Kehoe’s attorney declined to discuss the case, while a lawyer for Kirby Kehoe did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Authorities received a tip that Kirby Kehoe, 65, had weapons on his 40-acre property near Ash Fork, about 140 miles north of Phoenix, said Tom Mangan, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Agents who raided the property seized dozens of guns, including shotguns and semi-automatic rifles and pistols, according to the ATF. Kirby Kehoe was arrested on site, while federal authorities picked up Cheyne Kehoe in Prescott, where he had a scheduled court appearance in another case.
Kirby and Cheyne Kehoe both have previous felony convictions and are banned from possessing firearms. Each faces one charge stemming from the raid, but Mangan said the list could grow to include more weapons and narcotics charges.
The Kehoe family has been well-known to law enforcement since the 1990s when authorities say they provided weapons to various white supremacists who committed robberies across the Midwest. Authorities also said the family was involved in a plot to overthrow the federal government and establish the Aryan Peoples Republic in the Pacific Northwest.
Another son, Chevie Kehoe, is serving a life sentence in federal prison for his role in the 1996 killings of an Arkansas gun dealer, his wife and their 8-year-old daughter as part of the plot.
Cheyne Kehoe was sentenced in 1998 to more than 24 years in prison for his role in a shootout with Ohio police during a traffic stop about 40 miles northeast of Cincinnati. His sentence later was reduced to 11 years. No officers were injured in the gun battle, but a passer-by was wounded by a bullet fragment.
The family patriarch, Kirby Kehoe, was sentenced in 1999 to nearly four years in prison for racketeering and possession of illegal weapons in a case related to the plot aimed at overthrowing the government. The elder Kehoe, however, has maintained he was never involved in his sons’ efforts to establish a whites-only nation and that he isn’t a racist.
Mangan said due to the violent nature of the family’s past, authorities planned the Monday raid carefully, first setting up surveillance on the property before moving in with search warrants, heavily armed tactical teams and armored vehicles.
He said the raid was conducted in cooperation with law enforcement from around the country and was planned to avoid the potential for a violent confrontation.
“The reason and rationale for having executed the warrant on the property in that manner was driven by public safety, just based on the past history of this individual and the sons,” Mangan said Tuesday. “When a traffic stop was being conducted in Ohio, it turned into a nationwide manhunt, and we obviously didn’t want to revisit that issue.”
Kirby Kehoe is due back in court Thursday for a preliminary and detention hearing. Cheyne Kehoe’s next court appearance is set for Oct. 22.
Skoloff reported from Phoenix