“Sovereign Citizen” Prevented from Widespread Gun Violence - Van Sant Law, LLC
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“Sovereign Citizen” Prevented from Widespread Gun Violence

On June 6, 2014, 48-year-old Dennis Marx attempted to charge the Forsyth County courthouse with the intention to “take hostages.” According to County Sheriff Duane Piper, had Marx been successful in his attempts, there would have been numerous victims of his gun violence. Fortunately, local Deputy Daniel Rush was on duty and managed to confront Marx.

Rush was working at the courthouse when he saw the former TSA employee pull up in a rental car and throw out spike strips to prevent law enforcement from reaching him. Rush saw Marx and confronted him. Marx was heavily armed at the time and shot Rush in the leg before charging the building and opening fire.

In addition to his spike strips and ammunition, Marx possessed tear gas and grenades of pepper spray which he threw liberally as he approached the courthouse. Piper also confirmed that Marx possessed homemade explosives, restraining devices, and water, which indicated his intentions to occupy the courthouse for an extended period of time. However, a SWAT team was nearby and returned fire within a minute. Marx was shot dead in front of the courthouse. There were no other victims from the incident.

Marx was allegedly a member of an anti-government, sovereign citizen group that had been accused of violent acts prior to this incident. A former attorney of Marx told news outlets the gunman was emotionally unbalanced. Additionally, Piper said that Marx had been planning the attack for a while. The sheriff’s office was certain that had Marx entered the courthouse, there would have been many more bodies.

In addition to his connection with an anti-government group, Marx was also indicted on six drug-related charges in 2011. After his arrest, the government attempted to seize his property, which included multiple handguns, dozens of gun magazines, and more than $20,000 in cash.

In response to these charges, Marx filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department. In his lawsuit, Marx alleged that the sheriff’s department used excessive force and illegal searches to arrest him on drug charges. According to the sheriff’s office, he was scheduled to appear in court to address these charges on the same day as the attack.

The sovereign citizen movement of which Marx was part of is an extremist group of individuals who are staunchly anti-government. More specifically, these individuals believe that county sheriffs are the most powerful and most dangerous law enforcement officers in the country, due to their “unlimited authority.” This belief mirrors Marx’s lawsuit filed against Piper and his staff.

The FBI classifies sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists due to their growing violent threat on local law enforcement. This particular shooting is one in a long line of gun violence that has occurred across the country this summer. However, due to quick thinking from local law enforcement, Marx was unable to succeed in his attempts at widespread violence.

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