America's right-wing domestic terrorism problem, the anti-government, anti-authoritarian "sovereign citizen" types who believe they are a law unto themselves and nobody else, was personified in the Las Vegas shooting by David Brutsch and Devon Newman two years ago. Ashley Powers at The California Sunday Magazine looks at that fateful and deadly summer of 2013.
Devon Newman parked her black Honda Civic outside the warehouse. Her friend David Brutsche glowered in the passenger seat — they’d spent the 12-minute crawl across Las Vegas bickering about the mission. How committed are you, David barked, in that prison-guard way of his. Is this a joke to you? A game of let’s pretend? A few weeks ago, when the mission was still a dark fantasy, their pal Scott Reibach had warned them: “What we’re doing, you know, is dangerous. We could be hurt, we could be shot by these knuckleheads, we could be thrown in prison for the rest of our lives.” David didn’t flinch. “I’m willing to give my life for this,” he said.
It was mid-August and over 100 degrees. The air chapped lips, parched throats. The sun was starting to dip behind the mountains that ring the Las Vegas Valley; the Strip was shaking off its afternoon slumber. From outside the warehouse, David and Devon could glimpse the tops of the Wynn, the Encore, the Palazzo, and the Trump, its 64 stories sheathed in 24-karat-gold glass. That was not their Las Vegas. Neither was the Vegas of foreclosed McMansions — that was farther out, near the mountains, in the gated communities in Henderson and Summerlin.
Devon and David’s Las Vegas hadn’t lost its sheen in the recent recession; it had none to begin with. It was a Vegas of dollar stores, check-cashing services, EZPawn shops, gas-station slot machines, and storefronts stripped of fancy names — they offered DOG GROOMING and NAIL TIPS, nothing more. Everywhere there were apartment complexes painted in earth tones, their nameplates missing letters, their yellow welcome flags frayed. It was a Vegas of frustrations and resentments, of second and third chances squandered — the Strip’s opulence in sight, but always out of reach.
The warehouse was similarly glamourless, building B in a warren of squat structures. Scott worked there at a fledgling video-production business, near Code Red Emergency Plumbing and H&J Trophies. His boss didn’t mind if David and Devon stopped by. They mostly huddled in a backroom, on three couches arranged in a U, mapping out the mission until the sky was black and the Strip ablaze.
The mission: Kidnap a cop at a traffic stop. Jail him (or her, but likely him) at a house in the burbs. Hold their own trial. And then:
“Put a bullet in his head,” David said. He grinned.
The plan of course went horrifically wrong as police got wind of it and the pair were arrested after dozens of meetings with an undercover officer. But it's a chilling reminder that in the age of Obama, this domestic terrorism movement has grown exponentially, and so has the danger they pose.