3 'sovereign citizens' arrested after explosives found, Calif. deputies say

Deputies found illegal explosives and firearms in the suspects' vehicle and on their "remote sovereign citizen compound"


Grace Toohey
Los Angeles Times

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. — Three people, self-described as "sovereign citizens," were arrested Saturday near Joshua Tree National Park after officials found multiple explosives in their vehicle and at their residence, authorities said.

Deputies with the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department found them illegally in possession of an "improvised military-grade explosive device" as well as other explosives, ammunition and firearms, according to a news release from the department.

Deputies pulled over the two men, Jeffery Russell, 46, and David Russell, 50, in a white Ford Taurus at about 10 a.m. Saturday on Twentynine Palms Highway in Yucca Valley on allegations of vehicle code violations, the release said. Both men claimed to be sovereign citizens, people who are typically antigovernment and consider themselves exempt from U.S. laws, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The nonprofit tracks such extremist movements and has linked some violent incidents to the sovereign citizens movement.

Deputies said they also determined the two men were prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, but the news release did not say for what reason. The Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to questions about this detail or fulfill a request for the incident report.

But upon a search of the vehicle, deputies found "live ammunition, black gun powder and an improvised military-grade explosive device," the release said.

[MORE: What cops need to know about sovereign citizen encounters]

Deputies later obtained a search warrant to search the men's property, which they described as a "remote sovereign citizen compound" in Johnson Valley, an area about 30 miles north of Yucca Valley, the release said. There, deputies found Venus Mooney, 54, as well additional military-grade explosives, more ammunition and firearms.

The Sheriff's Bomb and Arson Division was called to safely dispose of the explosives, the release said.

Both Russells and Mooney were arrested and booked at the Morongo Basin Jail on charges of possession of an explosive device and possession of a controlled substance while armed, the release said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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