Police have identified eight of the 11 suspects who were arrested after an hours long armed standoff off Interstate 95 in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Saturday. All of them claimed to be part of a group called the Rise of the Moors.
Police safely resolved a situation with a group of heavily armed men who refused to comply with police Saturday morning, resulting in the shutdown of busy Interstate 95 and shelter-in-place orders for parts of Wakefield and Reading.
The 11 suspects who were taken into custody and transported for booking referred to themselves as a militia, police said Saturday. Eight guns, including three AR-15s, were seized, according to police, who said none of the suspects had licenses to carry guns.
The group of men were reportedly in two cars stopped in the breakdown lane on I-95 in Wakefield with their hazard lights on around 1:30 a.m. when police stopped to assist them. Police said the responding trooper saw that they were wearing “tactical or military style” uniforms, including tactical vests and body cameras. Some had long rifles, others pistols or some combination of both.
Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said the men identified themselves as being part of a group known as Rise of the Moors and that they adhere to “Moorish Sovereign Ideology.” The group's website describes them as "Moorish Americans dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our Elders."
“Their self-professed leader wanted very much known their ideology is not anti-government,” Mason said. “Our investigation will provide us more insight into what their motivation, what their ideology is.”
Mason said he can't confirm that they are "validated members" of the group. "They identify as they identify."
He said police are also aware of what the group promoting on social media sites, but didn't elaborate on what that was.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's website, the Moorish sovereign citizen movement is a collection of independent organizations and lone individuals that emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the anti-government sovereign citizens movement, which believes that individual citizens hold sovereignty over, and are independent of, the authority of federal and state governments.
It is not clear if Rise of the Moors is specifically affiliated with that movement.
The group has not returned requests for comment.
"I would call them a member of an extremist group," said Ken Gray, a retired special agent with the FBI. "Sovereign citizens are normally not violent, they are instead a nuisance group."
Gray says the group abides by a bogus treaty between the U.S. and Morocco as the basis of its ideology.
"No such treaty existed, but they claim there was a treaty that allowed them to operate in the country without being citizens of the country," said Gray.
During the negotiations with police, the heavily armed group went live on YouTube and said they were not anti-government or sovereign citizens.
They said they were lawfully headed to training.
"This is just a cocktail for bad intentions," said Todd McGhee, a former Massachusetts State Police trooper who now works as a security consultant.
He says despite the group's claims, they are known to act independent of the law.
"Sovereign citizens are anti-government," said McGhee. "They don't recognize the laws of the land, the rise of the Moorish or the Moorish group is an offset or a subgroup of sovereign citizen ideology."
State police in Rhode Island, where the group is based, say they are familiar with it. Mason said he did not have any knowledge of the group prior to Saturday, but said it is not unusual for Massachusetts State Police to encounter people with "sovereign ideologies."
As of around 10 p.m., two of the men continued to refuse to identify themselves. Police and prosecutors identified the following suspects:
- Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer, 29, of Providence, Rhode Island, also known as Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey
- Robert Rodriguez, 21, of the Bronx, New York
- Wilfredo Hernandez, 23, of the Bronx, New York, also known as Will Musa
- Alban El Curraugh, 27, of the Bronx, New York
- Aaron Lamont Johnson, 29, of Detroit, Michigan, also known as Tarrif Sharif Bey
- Quinn Cumberlander, 40, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island
- Lamar Dow, 34, of the Bronx, New York
- Conrad Pierre, 29, of Baldwin, New York
One of the suspects is 17 years old. His identity was not publicly released.
All of the suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, unlawful possession of guns and ammunition, possession of a high-capacity magazine, use of body armor in a crime and improper storage of firearms in a vehicle.
Hernandez, Johnson, Dow and the unnamed teen are also charged with giving a false name to police.
The 17-year-old is being released to parental custody, with the adults all being held on $100,000 bail at the Billerica House of Correction.
Three of the people taken into custody were brought to hospitals to be evaluated, state police said. Two of them have since been released.
The 11 members of the group are scheduled to be arraigned in Malden District Court Tuesday.