Comments made by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy during a public event Dec. 7 have drawn fire and protest plans from self-proclaimed constitutionalists, who say the sheriff is targeting law-abiding gun owners with military equipment obtained from the federal government.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said critics are taking seven seconds of video out of context and using it as an excuse to criticize law enforcement.
The video in question shows a citizen asking a deputy why the Sheriff’s Office needs a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP) at a public event at the Spokane Valley Mall. The deputy’s response: “We’ve got a lot of constitutionalists and a lot of people that stockpile weapons, a lot of ammunition.”
That video was posted on InfoWars.com, the website of conservative radio host Alex Jones, and has garnered nearly 120,000 views on YouTube in the past three days.
Scott Maclay, president of the Rattlesnakes Motorcycle Club, has invited other constitutionalists to join him Saturday at 2 p.m. for a protest at the “occupied” Spokane Valley Police Department on East Sprague Avenue. The Valley’s law enforcement services are provided by the Sheriff’s Office under a contract with the city.
Protesters will barbecue food in the parking lot, openly carry firearms and erect a Christmas tree to leave letters of complaint directed at the Sheriff’s Office in its branches.
Maclay said state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, is among those expected to attend.
Knezovich said the backlash against the video is politically motivated, citing Maclay’s involvement – including a $170 donation – with a political opponent’s campaign this fall.
The deputy who made the videotaped comment is being counseled against making broad statements characterizing large groups of people, Knezovich said.
“The term constitutionalist has a widespread meaning. Some people say I am a constitutionalist,” he said. “But people need to understand that there are people who carry that title who have killed police officers.”
He cited the killing of Las Vegas officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo earlier this year by a couple who picked them at random because they viewed all law enforcement officers as oppressors.
Knezovich said he was also reluctant to take the video from InfoWars seriously because of the conspiracy theories posted on the site, as well as the militantly anti-law enforcement comments posted on the video, some of which called for the deputy to be shot.
Maclay said he didn’t condone threats against law enforcement but wanted Knezovich to respond to his critics seriously and take responsibility.
Among his requests are for the office to return its MRAP to the federal government. It’s one piece of equipment given to the county for free through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, along with utility vehicles, a bomb disposal robot, night-vision goggles for helicopter pilots and modified assault rifles.
Knezovich said the MRAP is needed to deal with incidents like school shootings, and he has no plans to return a free piece of equipment.
As for Knezovich’s criticism that the video is out of context, Maclay said the length of the clip is irrelevant.
“He made a comment as a law enforcement official at a public event. It sticks. It doesn’t matter how long it is,” he said.