Veteran police officers Bill Evans and Sergeant Brandon Paudert were gunned down three years ago during a traffic stop.
Inside the white minivan they stopped were father and son Jerry and Joe Kane, Ohio residents traveling across the country. Police say they were teaching others how to get away with not following the law.
The officers were only on the scene for a few minutes before the 16-yearold-shot them with an AK-47.
The Kanes were considered to be sovereign citizens, or people who decide which laws to obey and which ones to ignore.
Bob Paudert was the chief of the West Memphis police department when Evans and his son Brandon were gunned down. He had never heard of the term sovereign citizens.
Hours after the murders, the alleged killers were cornered in a Walmart parking lot and killed in a shootout with police.
“I found out the night they were killed: An FBI agent told my assistant chief that they were in the FBI database as domestic terrorists,” Paudert said. “They were sovereign citizens.”
Paudert says that day he lost his desire for law enforcement. Instead, he found a new passion in educating others about the sovereign citizen movement.
He now devotes his life to teaching officers how to spot the anti-government extremists, looking for things like fake license plates, drivers’ licenses and social security cards.
“My mission is to give them as much information as I can so they can go home to their families at night,” Paudert said.
Special Agent Kenneth Smith investigates domestic terrorism for the FBI in central Ohio and says sovereign citizens often notify law enforcement of their beliefs prior to an incident ever taking place.
“They send a series of documents, a series of anti-sovereign documents to local police chiefs, superintendents of the state police and sheriffs as well,” said Smith.
According to police, late last year a Genoa Township resident named Gabriel Pace filed a 28-page document with multiple law enforcement agencies, among those the Westerville Division of Police, indicating that certain laws do not apply to him.
Officers say they remembered that information when they went to serve warrants on him just a few months later.
Police say Pace resisted arrest and the confrontation turned violent. He assaulted an officer and punched a police dog.
Multiple officers and county deputies were standing by prepared. Some had attended anti-terrorism training hosted by the Ohio’s Attorney General’s Office.
“Part of what we teach in our course is you have to get into these people’s mind and understand them, because they aren’t coming from the same place you and I are coming from. They are coming from a very different world,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
That world is one that Bob Paudert says law enforcement cannot afford to overlook.
“If Brandon and Bill had the information we have today, I’m convinced they would be alive, I know they would be,” Paudert said. “They didn’t have it, none of us had it.”
Gabriel Pace later pleaded not guilty to obstructing official business and assaulting a police officer and police dog. He is currently out of jail, awaiting trial on those charges.
According to his attorney, Pace denies any membership to sovereign organization.
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