Two Officers Killed by White Supremacist in Louisiana Shootout

  • August 14, 2007


Two detectives from the Bastrop, Louisiana, Police Department were killed in a shootout at a motel while trying to apprehend a fugitive—who turned out to be a member of the Aryan Circle, a violent racist prison gang -- on the run from a double murder in Texas.

The Aryan Circle member, Dennis Leighton Clem, also died in the August 10, 2007, motel shootout.  A female associate, Tonya Smith, allegedly fled the scene, but was captured two days later in Houston.  Two paramedics were wounded during the shootout.

The detectives went to the hotel to investigate a tip about a stolen vehicle from Texas, apparently unaware that the person in the motel was wanted for murder in Texas.  Clem reportedly opened fire on the detectives with two pistols: both men were shot. 

Detective Sergeants John Smith, 40, and Charles "Chuck" Wilson, 34, died at the scene.

A standoff ensued until a Morehouse Parish sheriff's deputy reportedly shot and killed Clem.  Smith was allegedly present at the scene but fled during the shootout. 

Two days later in Texas, the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force along with the Harris County Sheriff's Office captured Smith at a trailer park after receiving word that she had returned to the Houston area and was being hidden by Aryan Circle members.  Smith may also be an Aryan Circle associate: her nickname is "Little Feather," and Aryan Circle female associates frequently identify themselves as "featherwoods."  She has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder of a police officer.  

Three people—Donald Alex Brendle, Michael L. Coleman, and Chrystal Harrell—were later arrested for allegedly helping Smith escape.  Each has been charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, two counts of accessory after the fact of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of obstruction of justice.

Smith and Clem were both being sought in connection with a double-homicide in Texas, and Smith was also wanted on a federal warrant for a probation violation. 

The double-homicide occurred during a July 14, 2007, shootout in Harris County that allegedly followed a confrontation between several people in a truck and people in a nearby home, including Clem.  Two people in the vehicle, aged 19 and 15, were killed by an AK-47, and a third person injured.  Clem was identified by witnesses as the alleged killer.

Harris County sheriff's detectives believe Smith was at Clem's home during the incident, and then accompanied him on the run from police.

The Aryan Circle is the second largest white supremacist prison gang in Texas, trailing only the equally violent Texas Aryan Brotherhood.  It has several hundred members all over Texas, as well as some in neighboring states.  Members, who often refer to themselves as "the family" or "the diamond" (a reference to the diamond shape of Aryan Circle tattoos) have been involved with a variety of criminal activities, especially illegal methamphetamine trafficking. 




On January 7, 2009, a federal judge in Monroe, Louisiana, sentenced Tanya "Little Feather" Smith, now 25, of Mission, Texas, to 27 years in prison for federal firearms charges resulting from the August 2007 shooting at a Bastrop motel that killed two police detectives.

The judge imposed the maximum of 25 years for the firearms charges, plus two years for Smith's violation of a supervised release order.  Smith was on probation for a federal conviction of possession with intent to distribute marijuana in Texas at the time of the incident.

On October 1, 2008, a jury in federal court in Monroe, convicted Smith of conspiracy to possess firearms by a convicted felon, possession of firearms by a convicted felon, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun barrel less than 18 inches in length.

Smith still faces state charges of two counts of second-degree murder and eight drug and gun charges.  That trial is scheduled to begin on February 9, 2009, in Bossier Parish.


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