Two Louisiana sheriff’s deputies were killed on Thursday in LaPlace in two separate but related incidents. One or more of the suspects in the killings may have ties to extremism.
The first shooting incident occurred at a Valero corporation facility, when a gunman opened fire on a St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s deputy, wounding him. Deputies followed a vehicle to a trailer park. However, another person exited a nearby trailer with an assault rifle and opened fire on the officers. Two deputies were killed and another was wounded.
Seven people have been arrested in connection with the murders: Terry Lyn Smith, 44; Brian Lyn Smith, 24; Derrick Smith, 22; Chanel Skains, 37; Kyle David Joekel, 28; Teniecha Bright, 21; and Brittney Keith, 23. All except Keith and Skains have been charged with principal to attempted first degree murder of a police officer. Keith and Skains face charges of being accessories after the fact to attempted first degree murder of a police officer.
Reports emerged in early media coverage from law enforcement sources that one or more of the people arrested may be involved with an extremist group or movement, including possibly the extreme anti-government sovereign citizen movement. Authorities in Nebraska have said that Joekel was on an FBI watchlist. Joekel is wanted in Nebraska and Kansas on marijuana charges and on allegation of making terroristic threats regarding attacking law enforcement officers. In June 2012, while still a fugitive, Joekel posted his resume as a welder and pipefitter to an on-line jobs site, including an address and phone number. Terry Lyn Smith is also a pipefitter.
The suspects had recently been under police surveillance in DeSoto Parish after the sheriff’s office had received reports of people at a trailer park entering and leaving vehicles with assault weapons. However, they left the trailer park in June.
As of this writing, no information has emerged to clearly confirm the allegations of sovereign citizen connections, but one of the suspects, Terry Lyn Smith, has indicators of anti-government extremist leanings on his various social networking profiles. In particular, on a Myspace profile Smith lists, as either “heroes” or people he’d “like to meet,” Alex Jones, the Texas-based conspiracy-oriented and anti-government radio talk show host; Randy Weaver, the white supremacist at the center of the 1992 Ruby Ridge, Idaho, standoff; and David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians during the 1993 Waco, Texas, standoff. Those two standoffs were the main sparks for the resurgence of right-wing extremism in the mid-to-late 1990s, including the Oklahoma City bombing.