Three alleged “citizens” accused of possessing firearms, ammunition and improvised explosive devices were arrested over the weekend in desert communities, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said on Sunday, 19.
On Saturday, June 18, MPs were patrolling near the intersection of Twenty-Palms Highway and Old Woman Springs Road in the Yuka Valley, near Joshua Three National Park, when an MP stopped traffic on a white Ford Taurus on suspicion of violating the vehicle code , The sheriff’s department said in a press release.
The driver, who was identified as David Russell, 46, and his passenger, Jeffrey Russell, 50, both from the Johnson Valley, claimed to be sovereign citizens to the deputies, authorities said. Sovereign citizens believe they are not under the jurisdiction of the federal government and believe they are exempt from U.S. law, according to the Southern Poverty Lion Center. The center monitors extremist groups.
After checking the records, it was found out that neither of them is allowed to own or own a firearm, the authorities announced. The deputies then found ammunition, a black rifle and an “improvised explosive device of military quality” in their car, the sheriff’s department announced.
The explosive device was later “removed” to the safe area by the Bombs and Arson Department of the Sheriff’s Department.
Deputies then learned that additional explosives were located on a property in Johnson Valley, a community north of the Yuka Valley near Highway 247, and a search warrant was obtained, sheriff’s officials said.
A search was conducted in the “remote property of sovereign citizens” of the suspects, and 54-year-old Venus Mooney from the Johnson Valley was found on the spot and detained, the sheriff’s department announced. Additional “military explosives”, ammunition and firearms were found during the search, authorities said.
The bomb and arson team “properly removed” these explosives, sheriff’s officials said.
All three were arrested on suspicion of possessing an explosive device and possessing a controlled substance while armed, authorities said.
All were detained without bail, the sheriff’s department said.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the suspects were represented by a lawyer.
The sheriff’s department did not immediately announce whether it is known why the suspects allegedly possessed explosives.
Alleged sovereign citizens occasionally come to the attention of the public and officials. One, for example, was arrested as a suspect in the 2018 Holy Fire that raged in Orange and Riverside counties. Recently, some sovereign citizens have been involved in submitting fake election records to the National Archives in 2020, an Arizona official said.
Anyone with information regarding the investigation is invited to contact Deputy Carlos at 760-366-4175.