Screenshot of body camera footage of Chase Allan's death at the hands of Farmington police in Utah.
A 25-year-old man who espoused beliefs that aligned with the so-called “sovereign citizen” movement was shot dead by police officers in Utah after being pulled over for driving without a proper license plate. On March 1, Chase Allan, 25, was pulled over by police in the small Utah town of Farmington after cops noticed he was driving without a legitimate license plate. In its stead was a plate that read “American State Citizen, Utah” and featured the U.S. seal—something an expert described as a sovereign citizen symbol.
Police released body camera footage of the shooting on Wednesday afternoon, which shows Allan speaking through a small crack in the window and refusing to provide his ID. "I don't need registration, and I don't answer questions,” Allan tells the police officer. Eventually Allan provides the officer with his passport although he refuses to say that he is Chase Allan and adds that the passport is just a piece of plastic. “If you don’t step out we’re going to break the window and pull you out,” a cop tells Allan, who does not leave the vehicle and instead states, “We’re going to have an issue.” Police then move in to remove him from the vehicle, and one repeatedly says “gun.” During a press conference revealing the footage Wednesday, Farmington Police Chief Eric Johnsen noted on the screen that Allan’s gun holster was initially obscured in the car and the weapon was eventually visible on the floor. It’s unclear if Allan was reaching for it at any point as he was also holding a cell phone. Within seconds of the officer yelling “gun,” a barrage of shots ring out, hitting Allan, who later died at a hospital. Allan was hit 12 times, according to the family, who described the situation as a “brutal murder” and raised questions about if the arrest was targeted, an idea the police rejected. In an emotional Facebook post, Allan’s sister wrote that police were “stonewalling” them and that they learned about his death from the news.
“I don’t want to speculate, but I think the initial officer made a really interesting comment to the driver that ‘this is going to go the way you decide it’s going to go,’” said Chief Johnsen when asked if he thought the situation could have gone any other way.
Allan lived at home with his parents who described him as a “son, brother, grandson, nephew, peer, teammate, student and neighbor amongst many other important roles he played within our community.” “He has been studying law the last few years and was a patriot doing what he could to defend the people’s freedom and liberty in his community,” his family wrote about him.While Allan’s beliefs aren’t definitively known, there are several indications he was an adherent to the sovereign citizen movement, which can be best described as a group of people who believe they’re not bound by the laws of the country they reside in. Driving without a legitimate license plate, refusing to cooperate with police officers, and claiming independence from the laws of the land are typical in the movement.
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Allan’s family rejected the term “sovereign citizen,” instead describing him as a “state national.” In a statement made to Heavy.com, Allan’s sister said, “The term sovereign citizen has been used by certain entities to weaponize government and law enforcement against the people.” However, according to sovereign citizen expert Christine Sarteschi “aside from a bit of difference in nomenclature, they are the same.” Allan had previously interrupted a court hearing over his mother’s traffic violation—where she was ticketed for driving an unregistered and uninsured car without a license—and was so disruptive he had to be removed from the courthouse. Both Allan and his mother had used arguments tied to the sovereign citizen movement in the courthouse. Sovereign citizen ideology has been around for decades but experienced a resurgence in popularity during the pandemic. Across the world, people were using the ideas from the community to refuse to comply with COVID-19 health restrictions. Despite the departure of government health regulations, the growth of the sovereign citizen movement has not slowed down.Sovereign citizens have a longstanding history of not cooperating with police and, in some cases, being so anti-authority it leads to violence. In a recent case in Australia, two police officers and a neighbor were ambushed and killed by three people. The three were then shot dead during a police raid following the killings. Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.