Two suspects claiming affiliation with a Moorish sovereign citizens group known for trespassing on property and claiming it as their own were arrested late Friday evening in the Town of Woodway after burglarizing a home.
A 46-year-old Mountlake Terrace man and a 32-year-old Tacoma woman were booked into the Snohomish County Jail and a suspect vehicle was impounded as evidence in the case, Edmonds police spokesperson Sgt. Josh McClure said. The Town of Woodway contracts with the City of Edmonds for police services.
The incident unfolded around 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18 at a residence in the 21700 block of Chinook Road in Woodway. A neighbor called to report two subjects in the house, which was vacant and had just sold. A few minutes later, the alarm company called and reported multiple trips.
Officers responded to the call as a burglary in progress, and the first officer to arrive found a vehicle parked outside the locked gate to the residence. Two suspects were seen on the other side of the gate on the private property. Arriving officers jumped the fence and were immediately met by the female suspect, who accused officers of trespassing on her property. The male suspect was recognized by officers as having been recently removed from several area homes after claiming affiliation with the Moorish group. (See our earlier story here.)
Both subjects were detained and remained uncooperative throughout the investigation, police said.
Accordign to McClure, the suspects had posted a notice on the property’s for sale sign “indicating their new ownership of the property under Moroccan Law.” Officers located eyewitnesses and collected statements indicating that the suspects had entered the victim’s residence, and were also able to collect video surveillance footage showing the suspects inside, establishing probable cause for their arrest. The vehicle the suspects arrived in was impounded pending application for a search warrant in an effort to locate additional evidence.
Officers credit the help from alert neighbors in the area who were aware of previous news stories about this type of activity and called 911, McClure said, noting that since October there have been five other incidents in Edmonds and Woodway involving individuals claiming affiliation with this group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Moorish sovereign citizens as an extremist group, and notes on its website that its members “believe their status as members of a sovereign nation imparts immunity from federal, state and local authorities. They use this perceived immunity to justify refusing to pay taxes, buy auto insurance, register their vehicles and to defraud banks and other lending institutions.”
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