MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A threat to police by a sovereign citizen is putting Memphis police on edge. Dispatchers alerted law enforcement to the threat over the radio Wednesday morning.
Joseph Williams' home is behind a large fence and bars at the back of a cemetery on Horn Lake Road. Last week, court records show he was arrested for biting his wife then hitting her in the back of the head with his gun. When arrested, police say Williams identified himself as a sovereign citizen, someone who doesn't believe State and Federal laws apply to him.
Lt. Scott Vanzandt with the Memphis Police department says, "If you have a known dangerous person, you're going to deal with them differently than a normal everyday citizen."
Wednesday morning, dispatchers warned police Williams is the former and they warned if officers come in contact with him, to approach with caution. Lt. Vanzandt says it's not the fact that Williams is a sovereign citizen, it's the fact that he openly made a threat against authority. "If there is a known address, if it is a dangerous person, we can log that into a hazard file in our dispatch system and anytime an officer is dispatched to that location, they would be given that alert information."
He says it's not illegal to be a sovereign citizen, it's illegal actions that get them into trouble. "In every group there are more aggressive and less aggressive people," Lt. Vanzandt explains, "There are some very aggressive people in the sovereign citizens movement, but that being said there are some very aggressive people in society as whole too."
The sovereign citizens movement is nothing new, but Lt. Vanzandt says activity increases when the economy is down.