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Elyria police arrest 'sovereign citizen'

  • Crawley-jpg

    Damien Crawley

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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ELYRIA — Several city officers had a run-in Tuesday with an Elyria man whom they arrested after he made “incoherent” claims during a traffic stop before officers broke the vehicle’s windows and placed him in handcuffs.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, an officer traveling south on Lorain Boulevard saw a tan Chevrolet Malibu in front of his cruiser with its rear license plate obscured by snow. The officer allegedly watched the sedan turn left onto Bell Avenue without signaling and made a traffic stop on it on Bell Avenue near Ironwood Court.

Behind the wheel was 38-year-old Damien Reshard Crawley of the 400 block of Frances Boulevard, who allegedly made suspicious movements the officer believed could have been to conceal drugs or possibly a weapon, according to police reports.

As the officer spoke with Crawley, the driver allegedly “immediately began yelling toward (the officer) that there is no reason he should be stopped and that he was not driving” — even though Crawley was alone in the car and “seated directly behind the steering wheel,” according to a police report.

Crawley allegedly “continued yelling toward (the officer) that he should not have been stopped because he was traveling and began stating different phrases that referred to court cases” from Texas, the report stated.

Asked for his driver’s license, Crawley told the officer he did not have to identify himself and that he “was not driving, he was traveling,” refused to give his name, began recording himself with a cell phone, locked his driver’s side door and left his driver’s side window cracked only about 2 inches, according to police reports.

A police supervisor soon arrived along with two other officers as backup, and noted “a smell of marijuana” coming from the vehicle while Crawley “continued to yell in an incoherent manner.” The sergeant “was aware of the language used” by Crawley and that it was common for so-called “sovereign citizens” to use those words, he wrote in his report.

After several warnings to Crawley that he would be arrested, the officers broke his car windows with their extendable batons, unlocked the driver’s door and pulled the 275-pound Crawley from the car. It took three officers to do so because Crawley was “staying dead weight,” according to their reports.

An ambulance crew treated Crawley for two small cuts on his left eyebrow made by flying glass, and he was taken to Lorain County Jail and held on $5,130 bond. Inside the car, officers found a 1-inch plastic-handled razor blade in the middle armrest and several baggies containing suspected marijuana, a report states.

Crawley is charged with failure to comply and carrying a concealed weapon, both first-degree misdemeanors, resisting arrest and obstructing official business, both second-degree misdemeanors, failure to disclose personal information, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and warrants out of the Amherst Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government and hate groups in the United States, describes the sovereign citizen movement as a “strange subculture ... whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs,” which often are anti-Semitic in nature.

Sovereigns “believe that if they can find just the right combination of words, punctuation, paper, ink color and timing, they can have anything they want — freedom from taxes, unlimited wealth, and life without licenses, fees or laws,” according to the SPLC.

Sovereign citizens also have proved dangerous to law enforcement. Since 1993, according to the SPLC, at least nine police officers and seven sovereigns have been killed in armed confrontations with each other.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.
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