Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

California police arrest three ‘sovereign citizens’ allegedly in possession of a ‘military-grade explosive’

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Three self-described “sovereign citizens” allegedly in possession of improvised explosive devices were arrested just outside Joshua Tree National Park in southern California on Saturday morning. 

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies pulled over Jeffery Russel, 46, and David Russel, 50, in a white Ford Taurus around 10:00 a.m.  

Both of the men claimed to be sovereign citizens and a records check revealed that they were prohibited from owning firearms. 

“Deputies continued the investigation and found live ammunition, black gunpowder, and an improvised military-grade explosive device, inside the vehicle,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said. 

Dunes and hills of the Johnson Valley off-road recreation area are seen in this file photo. 

Dunes and hills of the Johnson Valley off-road recreation area are seen in this file photo. 
(Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The sheriff’s bomb and arson division served a search warrant at a “remote sovereign citizen compound” in Johnson Valley, roughly 30 miles north of where the two men were originally pulled over.

Additional explosives and firearms were discovered at the compound. Another suspect, 54-year-old Venus Mooney, was also arrested during the search. 

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All three suspects were arrested on charges of possession of an explosive device and possession of a controlled substance while armed. 

The bomb and arson division disposed of the explosive devices. 

Deputies pulled over the self-described sovereign citizens near the intersection of Twentynine Palms Highway and Old Woman Springs Road, just outside Joshua Tree National Park. 

Deputies pulled over the self-described sovereign citizens near the intersection of Twentynine Palms Highway and Old Woman Springs Road, just outside Joshua Tree National Park. 
(Google Maps)

The FBI describes sovereign citizens as “anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or ‘sovereign’ from the United States.”

“As a result, they believe they don’t have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement,” the FBI explains. 

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All three suspects were being held without bail on Monday pending an initial court appearance. It wasn’t immediately clear if they had a lawyer who could speak on their behalf. 



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