While US counter-terrorism efforts remain locked on Islamist extremism, the growing threat from homegrown, rightwing extremists is even more pressing
On 20 May 2010, a police officer pulled over a white Ohio minivan on Interstate 40, near West Memphis, Arkansas. Unbeknown to officer Bill Evans, the occupants of the car, Jerry Kane Jr, and his teenage son, Joseph Kane, were self-described sovereign citizens: members of a growing domestic extremist movement whose adherents reject the authority of federal, state and local law.
Kane, who traveled the country giving instructional seminars on debt evasion, had been posing as a pastor. Religious literature was laid out conspicuously for anyone who might peer into the van, and, when Evans ran the vans plates, they came back registered to the House of Gods Prayer, an Ohio church. Also in the van, though Evans did not know it, were weapons Kane had bought at a Nevada gun show days earlier.
Kane had been in a series of run-ins with law enforcement. After the most recent incident, a month earlier, he had decided that the next time a law enforcement officer bothered him would be the last.
Another officer patrolling nearby, Sgt Brandon Paudert, began to wonder why Evans was taking so long on a routine traffic stop. When he pulled up at the scene, he saw Evans and Kane speaking on the side of the highway. Evans handed him some puzzling paperwork that Kane had provided when asked for identification vaguely official-looking documents filled with cryptic language. He examined the papers while Evans prepared to frisk Kane.
Suddenly, Jerry Kane turned and tackled Evans, knocking him down into a ditch. The younger Kane vaulted from the passenger side of the minivan and opened fire with an AK-47. Evans, an experienced officer who also served on the Swat team, was fatally wounded before he even drew his weapon. Paudert was struck down moments later while returning fire.
As the two officers bled out on the side of the highway, the Kanes jumped back in their van and sped off. A FedEx trucker who witnessed the shooting called 911.