3 ‘sovereign citizens’ arrested in California; compound raid nets guns, explosives

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. — Two men and a woman, who claimed to be “sovereign citizens,” were arrested Saturday morning after explosives and live ammunition were found in both a vehicle the men were driving and at their isolated compound, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

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According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, self-proclaimed sovereign citizens consider themselves exempt from U.S. law because they do not recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction.

A deputy conducting a traffic stop near Joshua Tree National Park stopped a Ford Taurus for unspecified suspected vehicle code violations, the department stated in a news release.

The driver, identified as 46-year-old David Russell, and his passenger, 50-year-old Jeffrey Russell, informed the deputy that they were sovereign citizens, The Mercury News reported.

Authorities said a records check indicated that neither man is allowed to possess or own firearms, yet the vehicle search yielded “live ammunition, black gunpowder and an improvised military-grade explosive device,” NBC News reported.

The explosive device was disposed of safely, the sheriff’s department confirmed.

After obtaining a search warrant for the Johnson Valley property on which the Russells reside, deputies discovered additional military-grade explosives and ammunition, as well as firearms, the network reported.

A woman at the compound, identified as 54-yer-old Venus Mooney, was also arrested at the compound, The Mercury News reported.

All three were arrested for possession of an explosive device and possession of a controlled substance while armed. They are currently being held without bail, the sheriff’s department confirmed.