Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Williams had a taste of much worse to come when he arrested Michael Alan Grube behind Winn-Dixie at Flagler Plaza on illegal weapons charges right after midnight this morning. Grube would not cooperate with Williams–would barely speak to him, wouldn’t follow his commands, though he admitted to not having a concealed weapon permit for the brass knuckles and the loaded Glock the cop found.
It got a lot worse at the Flagler County jail, where Grube, 30, declared himself a “sovereign citizen,” refused to cooperate with the booking process, demolished some property, blocked the surveillance camera in his holding cell, and ended up getting pepper-sprayed, forcibly extracted from his cell in front of Sheriff Rick Staly, and strapped in the jail’s restraining chair for a few hours before noon today. By 2 p.m., he’d relented and allowed his fingerprints to be taken and the booking process to be completed, though he’d copped an additional charge of criminal mischief.
The “sovereign citizen” movement is a cultish but growing subculture of extremists whose members pick and choose the laws they follow and the laws they don’t, who don’t recognize government authority, don’t believe in paying taxes, and who often use various levels of violence to make their point. The FBI considers the trend “as comprising a domestic terrorist movement,” citing the example of Jerry Kane who, during a traffic stop, got out of his car and fired an AK-47 at two police officers, murdering them both. “Sovereign citizen”‘s behavior is often inspired by anti-Semitism or other forms of bigotry, and is tracked for its extremism by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Grube’s arrest does not necessarily indicate a new strain of “sovereign citizens” in Palm Coast or Flagler: he is from Oviedo, at least according to the papers he submitted sheriff’s authorities (false plates or papers are part of the movement’s methods).
Deputies were called to Flagler Plaza because of a verbal Grube had parked his black motorcycle behind the plaza, where the deputy came in contact with him, according to Grube’s arrest report. “what appeared to be a black ax handle” was laying across the seat. When the deputy asked him to walk away toward the front of deputy’s patrol car, Grube was “uncooperative.” The arrest report nowhere notes that he had at that point invoked his “sovereignty.” That would come later at the jail. But he did concede to having a firearm on the seat of his motorcycle. A search revealed brass knuckles in his pocket, and the Glock, “on the seat unsecured and in plain sight,” according to the arrest report.
“A check of the weapon was conducted and it was found to be loaded with a round in the chamber,” the report notes. “The location of the firearm was suspicious and appeared as if [Grube] intended on having the firearm in this location for immediate use.”
Grube refused to answer questions and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a first-degree misdemeanor, and carrying an unlicensed firearm, a third-degree felony.
“He refused to cooperate during the booking process, so he was held in a holding cell, and he was not happy. He was pounding on the cell, he had covered up our camera in there with toilet tissue,” said Staly, who happened to be spending the morning and part of the afternoon at the jail as part of the ongoing National Correctional Officers and Employees Week. “We tried to talk to him. He wouldn’t cooperate.”
Grube was ordered to move in certain directions so he could be handcuffed, refused that, so the jail’s CSOT team on duty (Corrections Special Operations Team), a corrections equivalent of the SWAT team, was brought in to execute a forcible cell extraction. “We ultimately had to extract him out of the cell and put him in the restraint chair,” Staly said, closer to 1 p.m., when Grube had yet to cooperate with the booking. “He calmed down pretty quick during that process. So basically he’s in time-out right now. We just handcuffed his hands. He was in the chair for an hour. You have to earn your way out of that chair. We’ve un-handcuffed his hands, and if her behaves and is cooperative, in the next hour then we will take him out of the chair and will direct him in a hallway, certain orders, and if he cooperates in that process then we can finish his booking. He’ll have the opportunity to bond out or stay here until he goes to court the next morning.”
Staly said the sovereign-citizen movement isn’t new: he’s dealt with it his entire career. “He was displaying and commenting on guns and laws, wouldn’t listen to our deputies and so forth,” Staly said. And even though on occasions such “citizens” will recognize the sheriff, he didn’t get that opportunity this morning. “I doubt he understood I was the sheriff at the point that he was in the chair. We sprayed him with pepper spray at the start of the cell extraction, and that pretty much calmed him down. Then he became much more cooperative.” Staly added: “I did not have to physically lay hands on him. I had a team that was trained to do that, so they did that, but had he gotten out of control, I’d have been right there, because I was within 18 inches, probably a little closer.”
Grube’s booking time at the jail is recorded as 1:13 a.m. today, according to the jail’s website. He remained at the jail on $2,500 bond late this afternoon. By then he’d destroyed a mattress in the cell.
In a 2011 bulletin on “sovereign citizens,” the FBI wrote: “They could be dismissed as a nuisance, a loose network of individuals living in the United States who call themselves “sovereign citizens” and believe that federal, state, and local governments operate illegally. Some of their actions, although quirky, are not crimes. The offenses they do commit seem minor, including regularly false license plates, driver’s licenses, and even currency.
“However, a closer look at sovereign citizens’ more severe crimes, from financial scams to impersonating or threatening law enforcement officials, gives reason for concern. If someone challenges (e.g., a standard traffic stop for false license plates) their ideology, the behavior of these sovereign-citizen extremists quickly can escalate to violence. Since 2000, lone-offender sovereign-citizen extremists have killed six law enforcement officers.”
The bulletin continued: “As sovereign citizens’ numbers grow, so do the chances of contact with law enforcement and, thus, the risks that incidents will end in violence. Law enforcement and judicial officials must understand the sovereign-citizen movement, be able to identify indicators, and know how to protect themselves from the group’s threatening tactics.