LAS VEGAS – A couple spent hundreds of hours over four months plotting to abduct, torture and kill Las Vegas police officers as a way to attract attention to their anti-authority “sovereign citizens” movement, police said.
David Allen Brutsche and Devon Campbell Newman attended training sessions about sovereign citizen philosophy, shopped for guns, found a vacant house and rigged it to bind captives to cross beams during interrogation, and recorded videos to explain their actions and why officers had to die.
At every step, police said Thursday, an undercover officer was with them, documenting and recording the alleged plot.
Newman, 67, of Las Vegas was a bit nervous, according to a police report. She asked at one meeting to unplug the television because she thought authorities could use it to listen to their conversations.
Brutsche 42, an ex-con child sex offender from California, practiced stalking Newman, posing as a police officer and putting a gun to her head to take her into custody, the report said.
The SWAT arrests of Brutsche and Newman this week at their apartment about three miles east of the Las Vegas Strip, scuttled a carefully planned operation to draw the world’s attention to the sovereign citizen cause, Las Vegas police Lt. James Seebock told reporters. He characterized the case as a domestic terror plot.
“They were furthering their ‘sovereign citizen’ ideology by committing criminal acts toward law enforcement,” Seebock said. “The suspects believed that once the first kidnapping and execution was accomplished, they would be compelled to keep repeating their actions, kidnapping and killing multiple officers.”
Federal authorities regard sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists. Authorities have linked sovereign citizen groups with violent confrontations in recent years, including deadly police shootings in Louisiana and Arkansas.
In Louisiana last year, police said that at least some of the seven people arrested after a shootout that left two deputies dead and two others wounded had links to a sovereign citizen group.
In Arkansas in 2010, a father and son identified as sovereign citizen followers shot and killed two police officers before being killed by authorities in a separate shootout.
Brutsche and Newman were held Thursday at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas pending court appearances on charges including conspiracy to commit murder and attempted kidnapping. It was not immediately known if they had lawyers.
Police said the investigation began when the unidentified undercover officer befriended Brutsche and Newman in April.
Authorities haven’t released video evidence, but the 10-page police report states that every one of the 30 meetings with the undercover officer was recorded by audio or video.
“We need to arrest the police and take them to our jail and put them in a cell and put them on trial in a people’s court,” Brutsche said July 9, according to the arrest report. “If we run into the position that they resist, then we need to kill them.”
During a tour of gun stores the next day, Brutsche said that what they were planning was going to be big, “and that they would really get a large following once they started because of the publicity,” the report said.
Police said that when Brutsche was arrested, he denied that police had authority to hold him.
Newman told a KLAS-TV reporter in a jailhouse interview Thursday that she didn’t really think Brutsche was serious about kidnapping and killing police, and that officers overstepped their authority in arresting her.
Associated Press writer Hannah Dreier contributed to this report.