On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015, a regularly scheduled meeting was being held by the Republic of Texas in a rented VFW room in Bryan, Texas.
The group who refers to its members as “Texians” instead of Texans, due to its heritage prior to the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, thought this particular meeting would be a meeting like most others.
Senators and the president of the group had gathered to discuss issues regarding the national currency, how international relations could be developed and to celebrate a birthday of one of its oldest members. The invited public was also present at the meeting.
As it turned out, this day would be anything by typical.
According to the group’s website, a man in the crowd who had initially pretended to be a guest but who was later identified as the lead deputy, Jeff McCoy, stood up at a designated time and blocked all ingress and egress from the rented room with the help of “armed and threatening” police.
McCoy allegedly allowed in armed and armored force from the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, Texas District Attorney’s office agents, the Texas Rangers, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshalls. It was estimated that 20 officers in all entered the room where the 60 attendees were gathered.
The “crime,” was set forth in a warrant issued by 216th District Court Judge N. Keith Williams of Kerr County.
The judge alleged that an unauthorized summons had been issued by the Republic of Texas when the group’s International Common Law Court had issued writs for the appearance of Melvin Rex Emerson, Jr., Court Administrator in Kerr County, according to the group’s website.
As a result, all 60 attendees were allegedly searched, fingerprinted, and had their cellphones, iPads, laptops, business papers, Republic of Texas paperwork, coinage of precious metals, and recording equipment seized by the mostly armed officers who wore bulletproof vests.
The group claims that most of its attendees that day were “seniors of respected middle-class business, farming, broadcasting, engineering, scientific, health, veterans, and faith-based backgrounds.”
The group reportedly asked several times for a copy of the warrant before complying with requests but were denied access to it. The group alleges that they were told the warrant would be made available “after” the investigation and that the warrant subsequently “surfaced unannounced on the main table.”
Additionally, the group claims that the warrant was given to the Post Commander of the VFW with directions not to copy the warrant or divulge the contents to anyone.
The group believes they are legally working through world courts to get international recognition of an independent Texas. The police task force disagrees.
“You can’t just let people go around filing false documents to judges trying to make them appear in front of courts that aren’t even real courts,” said Kerr County sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, who led the operation.
Hierholzer acknowledged he used a “show of force,” grouping officers from city, county state and federal law enforcement to serve a search warrant for suspicions of a misdemeanor crime. He said he had worries that some extremists in the group could become violent, citing a 1997 incident when 300 state troopers surrounded an armed Republic leader for a weeklong standoff.
The 1997 incident to which Hierholzer referred, allegedly involved a Texas separatist from Missouri, Richard McLaren, and “his little band of home invaders and hostage takers” who subsequently faced an array of state and federal charges. Such allegations have not be leveled against The Republic of Texas.
Rather it would appear that Hierholzer’s believes his “worries” justified him moving forward with his actions, especially when apparently supported by the Department of Homeland Security’s recent intelligence assessment. The assessment was prepared by DHS in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and released to law enforcement on February 5, 2015, a mere nine days before the Valentine’s Day incident.
The DHS document, according to CNN, indicates that while most sovereign citizens are nonviolent, when sovereigns do plan an attack in advance, the report claims that it is usually “in direct response to an ongoing personal grievance, such as an arrest or court order.” The Republic of Texas group had issued writs for a particular court administrator.
Some may argue that this would be enough to support Hierholzer’s police task force’s actions against the Texas group, but without further evidence of wrongdoing, this argument seems unsubstantiated.
However, on February 5, 1999, two members of The Republic of Texas were sentenced to more than 24 years in prison each, followed by five years of supervised release, according to an FBI report, for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction against a federal agent and his family.
The question then becomes, whether law enforcement officials were reasonable in their search and seizure of the group in February 2015, based upon concerns about a different group’s criminal activity in 1997 and the criminal activities committed in 1999 by two members, possibly connected to this group, although not given as a reason for the task force’s current actions taken against The Republic of Texas? Or were the actions of the police simply an overreach of authority given the allegations of a “suspicion” of a misdemeanor?
Many are rightfully concerned that the Obama administration’s DHS may move to sanction more of these searches based upon “hunches” or “worries” that these groups are or could potentially be involved in “sovereign extremist violence” in the future.
While members of this particular group may have been involved in criminal activities approximately 16 years ago, there is no evidence currently that would suggest that the activities the group is presently involved in necessitated the apparent excessive measures taken by law enforcement.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the ideology of the group, without more evidence, it would appear that the actions taken by the task force may have been more about intimidation and quashing the rights of a group to freely gather, rather than real concern over any present criminal behavior.