Apparent Sovereign Citizen Takes Own Life Following Standoff

  • June 9, 2006

A possible member of the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement from Weatherford, Texas, fatally shot himself during a standoff with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers following a routine traffic stop on June 6, 2006.

Harold Belmont Gray, 61, was pulled over by a state trooper for a seat belt violation and for making unsafe lane changes.  According to the trooper who made the initial stop, Gray was argumentative and told the trooper he didn’t have authorization to stop him.  Sovereign citizens believe that motor vehicle laws are illegitimate and that most authorities have no legal jurisdiction over them.

Gray allegedly refused to produce identification or to comply with the trooper’s request to step outside the vehicle.  Gray then grabbed a pistol near the passenger seat and put it to his chest, according to the trooper.  The officer drew his own weapon, then went back to his patrol car and called for backup.

Once additional officers arrived at the scene, Gray apparently attempted to flee the scene, but his tires were shot out, officials said.  Negotiations continued for more than an hour before Gray shot himself in the chest.  Authorities said it is unclear why Gray took his own life.

Authorities have suggested that, based on his statements, Gray was possibly a member of the Republic of Texas, a large Texas-based sovereign citizen group, although there are other sovereign citizens in the state as well.  

The sovereign citizen movement is a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology originating in the theories of a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s.  Over the past 12 years there have been numerous violent traffic stop confrontations involving members of the sovereign citizen movement. 

For more information on the risks law enforcement officers face from extremists during traffic stops see, Officer Safety and Extremists: An Overview for Law Enforcement Officers.