LAS VEGAS — A man and a woman arrested in Las Vegas on charges of plotting to kidnap and kill a police officer were under investigation for months on suspicions they belonged to an anti-government movement, authorities said on Friday.
Undercover officers met with David Brutsche, 42, and his roommate Devon Newman, 67, more than 30 times, during which the suspects said they wanted to capture a police officer during a routine traffic stop, according to a police report.
Brutsche and Newman then planned to hold the officer in a makeshift jail and conduct a trial in what they considered a “sovereign court of law,” the report said.
The suspects, arrested on Tuesday, intended to kill the officer after the trial, douse the body with bleach and vinegar and dispose of it in the Nevada desert, police said.
Police initiated the investigation of Brutsche in April when officers who came in contact with the man heard him “espouse the beliefs and ideology of the sovereign citizen movement,” Lieutenant Jim Seebock of the Las Vegas Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Section told reporters.
Brutsche said “he was not subject to the laws of Clark County” where he lived “nor the United States,” Seebock said.
Adherents of the “sovereign citizen” movement believe individuals are sovereign nations, and federal, state and local laws do not apply to them.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, said the number of hard-core believers in sovereign citizen principles may be 100,000 based on the number of tax protesters in the country.
Las Vegas police said Brutsche and Newman discussed their plans with undercover officers posing as sovereign citizen supporters, and the two had already set up a makeshift prison in the master bedroom of a private residence two days before they were arrested.
“The suspects further believed that once the first kidnapping and execution was accomplished, they would be compelled to keep repeating their actions, kidnapping and killing multiple officers,” Seebock told reporters.
The two are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and attempted kidnapping with a deadly weapon, said Tess Driver, spokeswoman for the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
They have not entered a plea to the charges, but a preliminary hearing at a Las Vegas court is scheduled for Sept. 9, Driver said. Prosecutors said they had not yet calculated the maximum sentence the suspects could face if convicted.
Brutsche’s lawyer in the Public Defender’s Office and Newman’s attorney Carl Arnold could not be reached for comment.
In a jailhouse interview with local station KTNV, Newman denied the charges.
She said she wanted people to “to realize that our freedoms are being eroded. I want them to stand up for themselves and demand that the government apply the Constitution.”
Newman and Brutsche are being held without bail at Clark County jail, Driver said.