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It's beginning to emerge that the two men who shot and killed two police officers and wounded two more before being killed themselves in West Memphis, Arkansas, on Thursday were probably white supremacists from a small operation in southern Ohio. Why they opened fire on the cops remains a mystery, but this could be an important developing story:
Two police officers were fatally shot and another two were wounded Thursday in two separate shootings allegedly by the same suspects in West Memphis, Arkansas, police said.
The two suspects, who were using an assault weapon, were themselves fatally shot, said Inspector Bert Shelton, who is assigned to city hall for the West Memphis Police Department.
The incident began around 11:36 a.m. (12:36 p.m. ET), when West Memphis patrolman Bill Evans made a traffic stop on a white minivan traveling eastbound on I-40 at Airport Road, said Bill Sadler, public information officer for the Arkansas State Police.
After the vehicle exited the Interstate onto an off-ramp near College Avenue, Sgt. Brandon Paudert arrived on the scene as backup, Sadler said.
"It is our belief that Officer Evans was shoved to the ground by one of the suspects in the minivan and gunfire was directed at both officers," Sadler said.
The suspects then fled, driving east in the minivan, leaving one man dead and the other fatally wounded.
Within minutes, officers from other agencies -- including the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission -- began to converge on the area, looking for the suspects, he said.
About 90 minutes later, a minivan believed to be the one that had been seen leaving the shooting site was spotted in a parking lot of a nearby Wal-Mart, Sadler said.
There, it was approached by Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby and Chief Enforcement Officer W.A. Wren, who were traveling in the same vehicle, he said.
Both men were wounded in a gunbattle initiated by the suspects, who were using a long rifle and a handgun, Sadler said.
It turns out that the white van you see in the video was registered to an old Aryan Nations church in the small town of New Vienna, Ohio:
The two gunmen connected to the shootings in West Memphis that left two West Memphis police officers dead Thursday, drove a van that's registered to a church in Ohio. According to records with the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles, the plates on the gunmen’s van are registered to “House of God’s Prayer” in New Vienna, Ohio.
The church was once affiliated with Harold Ray Redfeairn, a white supremacist preacher who died in 2003. Redfeairn was a leader of the Aryan Nation. He was also convicted of trying to kill a cop in 1979. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups across the country, Redfeairn was sentenced to four consecutive seven-year minimum terms for attempted aggravated murder, but was paroled in 1991.
It cannot be proven the gunmen are tied to the Aryan group, but the van used by the suspects in this shootout was never reported stolen. The vehicle’s plates were renewed last summer, and set to expire next month.
The two shooters have been identified, but not much is known about them yet:
People claiming to be relatives of the two, however, told The Commercial Appeal they could identify them from numerous videos and photographs taken at the crime scene and available on Memphis media websites. They identified the men as Jerry Kane, 45, of Ohio and his 16-year-old son, Joseph.
Kane's own website this morning bears a note indicating the two were "shot down" by law enforcement in West Memphis.
The Commercial Appeal could not independently confirm the suspects' identification.
Attempts to verify the information led to a woman named Donna Lee in central Florida who said she was married to Jerry Kane and that Joe, as she called him, was her 16-year-old stepson. She wanted to emphasize Joseph Kane is a minor. She said the white minivan belonged to Jerry and was positive from photos and videos from the scene that the two unidentified dead suspects were Jerry and Joe Kane -- and that the dog she saw exiting the minivan was a labrador-rottweiler mix named Olie.
Another man, Jake Jefferson, said he was a nephew of Jerry Kane's and said he was positive that the dead person he saw in news accounts was 16-year-old Joe Kane, that the white minivan had belonged to Jerry for some time and they traveled the country helping people with mortgage and foreclosure issues. He also said he recognized the dog, and that Jerry and Joe had spent a month with him at his home in the Phoenix area over Christmas.
Jefferson and Lee both said Joe's mother had died previously. Jefferson said they traveled with a box of her ashes in the van.
"That's them," he said. "And why do I think they fired on police? Because they must have believed the police were going to fire on them."
The Internet company that hosted a website devoted to Jerry Kane's business has now published a memorial page that says "Jerry Kane & Joe Kane. Father and son killed in W. Memphis." At the top of the site it says, "Funds are now needed to bring Jerry and Joe back to Florida and for their funeral costs."
A local TV station reports:
Kane's business website, which lists information and classes on how to fight mortgage fraud and get around government regulations and taxes, has a memorial section dedicated to Joe and Jerry Kane. The website also says the two were on their way back from Florida, where they were now living with Jerry Kane's new wife and claims their initial traffic stop was unlawful and unjust.
The website lists Jerry's business address and phone number in Springfield, Ohio. Jerry and Joe were riding in a van with Clinton County plates, registered to a now defunct church in New Vienna, Ohio-it's not clear yet why they had the van.
The Kane's website says, "Jerry Kane and his beautiful son Joe (age 16) were shot to death during an alleged traffic stop by law enforcement on Thursday, May 20th, 2010. Jerry, Joe and their two dogs, while on their way back to their home in Florida have been made out to be everything from drug smugglers to hispanics, which we all know is typical of the media spinners. The police said it was a traffic stop. But their van had more bullet holes in it than Bonnie and Clyde's."
It goes on to say, "Last month, Jerry was stopped on I-40 in New Mexico and arrested for not having a drivers license. He recently completed his administrative process for the unlawful arrest. Coincidence? I-40 sounds like the good ole boy stretch-of-highway, where if they spot you, and they already dont like you, you'could get killed. Even if you are just a Dad and son with your two dogs on your way home, minding your own business."
The local Fox affiliate in Ohio has more on the van:
The van is registered in New Vienna, in Clinton County, about 60 miles north-east of Cincinnati.
The Mayor, Keith Collins and the Police Chief, James Holcomb, both told FOX19 they've never seen that van around town.
It is a small enough community, people pretty much know who's doing what, driving what and where things are happening.
And, our FOX19 investigation of public records shows the van could be linked to a white supremacist group that was once here in Ohio.
New Vienna, Ohio was the home of the Jesus Christ Christian Church, led by a self proclaimed white supremacist, the Aryan Nation Church and its leader Ray Redfairn, made headlines 13 years ago.
The van involved in Thursday's shooting in West Memphis, AR, was registered to the House Of God's Prayer, and that address is 143 West Main Street in New Vienna. Clinton County, OH records show the New Vienna property is owned by something called The Universal Life Of The Good Shepherd Church. It has an address 50 miles away in Middletown, OH.
Butler County records show the Middletown property is owned by Hoge and Mary Tabor. A man named Hoge Tabor is prominently mentioned in a book about the Aryan Nation in Ohio. Tabor told FOX19 on the phone that he indeed owns the New Vienna property, but then hung up the phone.
FOX19 tried knocking on the front door at 143 west Main Street and also tried beating on the rear door, but the police chief and the mayor said haven't seen anybody walk in or out of that building in years.
"Right now it's vacant," said Chief Holcomb. "There's nothing in that building at all."
"They were part of the Aryan Nation clear back in the 90's but they weren't really active because I think they're main headquarters was somewhere down in Clermont county," Collins said. "So they used this just basically for a base and just a mailing address and held church services back in the 90's."
While the information so far does not definitively confirm that the two dead shooters were white supremacists, both the van registration and their response to being approached by law enforcement are powerful indicators that this is the case.
Also, you can see Jerry Kane conducting a seminar here. As you can see, this appears to be a Freeman-style operation based on old Posse Comitatus garbage.
We'll have more information as it emerges.
Meanwhile, we hope Michelle Malkin adds these to her list of police officers felled by extremists. As we noted back when she and the rest of the right-wingers were loudly complaining about the DHS bulletin for law-enforcement officers warning of the threat posed by resurgent white-nationalist extremists:
A recent study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism lays out in painful detail the very real threat that right-wing extremists pose to people in law enforcement:
Research led by Dr. Joshua D. Freilich (John Jay College, CUNY) and Dr. Steven Chermak (Michigan State University) and funded by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has revealed a violent history of fatal attacks against law enforcement officers in the United States by individuals who adhere to far-right ideology.
* In the United States, 42 law enforcement officers have been killed in 32 incidents in which at least one of the suspects was a far-rightist since 1990.
* 94% of these incidents involved local or state law enforcement. Only two events—high-profile attacks at Ruby Ridge and at the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City—involved federal agents. Much more common are events like the tragic Pittsburgh triple slayings.
* Attacks on police by far-rightists tend to occur during routine law enforcement activities. 34% of the officers killed by far-rightists were slain during a traffic stop, and a number of law enforcement officers have been killed while responding to calls for service similar to the domestic violence call that precipitated the Pittsburgh murders.
* Firearms were the most common type of weapon used during these fatal anti-police attacks. 88% of the incidents involved guns, while only 6% involved explosives and 6% involved knives. 81% of the victims were killed by guns.
* Only 12% of the suspects in these attacks were members of formal groups with far-right ideologies. The vast majority—like Poplawski—acted alone. This greatly complicates law-enforcement efforts to anticipate which individuals might pose a threat to police officers.
* Beyond these law enforcement murders, far-right violence presents a broader threat to national security and American citizens. Since 1990, far-rightists have been linked to more than 275 homicide incidents in 36 states. These crimes have resulted in the more than 530 fatalities, including the 168 victims murdered by Timothy McVeigh when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The vast majority of these suspects are white and male, with almost 70% being 30 years old or younger.