The parents of a 29-year-old Providence man who narrated an hours-long standoff with police Saturday on social media from a closed highway said on Sunday he is a loving son and father who served for years in the Marine Corps.
Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey is among a group of 10 men and a 17-year-old facing charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, as well as several firearms-related charges, following the encounter with police during which authorities shut down a section of Interstate 95 and ordered nearby residents to shelter in their homes.
Felicia Sanders, Bey’s mother, said her son is not violent, nor is he antipolice or antigovernment.
“All Jamhal wants is for people of all races to be treated fairly and equally. And he wants the law to be upheld as such,” Sanders said. “He just wants people to be treated fairly, that’s all he wants. And he wants to be treated with respect.”
Neither Sanders nor Bey’s father, Steven Latimer, who both live in Providence, could square the nature of the charges with the son they know and raised. Sanders also questioned the evidence being used to support the charges, particularly the allegation of conspiracy.
“I know my son; there is no ill will in his heart,” Sanders said.
Bey and the other men are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday at Malden District Court, according to Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office Sunday. The juvenile defendant was released to parental custody, according to State Police.
Sanders and Latimer said in separate phone interviews that they are very proud of their son, whom they described as deeply committed to helping others. They have not been able to speak to him since his arrest Saturday morning, they said.
“My son is not a violent person ... growing up he never had any trouble or issues like that,” Latimer said. “All he is trying to do is find the truth, and make sure people are following the law — not just the people, but the cops and the government as well.”
On Saturday, Bey, who was also identified by Massachusetts State Police as Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer, was part of a group traveling in a van and a pickup truck from Rhode Island to Maine to “train” on private land, Bey later said on social media. The vehicles were carrying fuel and camping gear, he said.
He calls himself Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, as does his family, the parents said.
The vehicles stopped on the side of Interstate 95 in Wakefield around 1:30 a.m. to refuel. A trooper on patrol spotted them and stopped to offer help, according to State Police Colonel Christopher Mason.
The trooper then saw that the men were armed with long guns or handguns and called for backup after they said they did not have licenses for the weapons.
Some of the men fled into nearby woods while others stayed with the vehicles. Police shut down the highway between Lynnfield and Stoneham for nearly seven hours while negotiators spoke with them, according to Mason.
In videos posted to social media, Bey said members of the Rise of the Moors believe they are foreign nationals in the United States. Members of Bey’s group, which is based in Rhode Island, were traveling through Massachusetts to Maine with a Moroccan flag Saturday, he said.
Bey, who is the group’s leader, repeatedly streamed live video from the highway to share parts of their negotiations with police.
“I reassured them that we are not Black-identity extremists. I reassured them that we are not antipolice,” Bey said in one video.
The men surrendered to police over the course of several hours, Mason said on Saturday.
Bey identifies as a Moor, Sanders said, and she believes that he is being unfairly treated by police because of his dark skin color. Sanders believes if they had been white men with guns, they would not have been arrested.
Watching the scene unfold online Saturday, Sanders was terrified for her son’s safety.
“What was going through my mind was, ‘In a couple of hours, they’re going to call me and tell me that my son is dead on the highway,’ " Sanders said.
Her fears have not abated, she said.
“I’m concerned that they’re going to tell me that my son had some sort of quote-unquote accident wherever he’s being held,” Sanders said.
David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, said Sunday the men were arrested because “they broke the law and created a clear public safety risk.”
State Police troopers and local police, he said, “did an outstanding job bringing a tense and dangerous situation — made so by the defendants’ criminal actions — to a peaceful conclusion.”
Three of the men were taken to the hospital due to preexisting conditions that had nothing to do with their interactions with police, according to Procopio. Search warrants have also been executed on the vehicles, he said.
All three were examined at a local hospital and were then released into custody of police. They were being held with the other men at the Billerica House of Correction on $100,000 cash bail.
State Police said in a statement Saturday the men refer to themselves as a militia and they adhere to “Moorish Sovereign Ideology.” Troopers seized eight firearms, including three AR-15 rifles, according to the statement.
State Police released the names of eight suspects, including Bey. Two other men arrested Saturday have refused to identify themselves. Police have not identified the 17-year-old.
Along with the conspiracy charge, they face eight counts of unlawful possession of a firearm; unlawful possession of ammunition; use of body armor in commission of a crime; possession of a high-capacity magazine; and improper storage of firearms in a vehicle, according to State Police.
Four of the suspects, including the juvenile, are also charged with furnishing a false name to police.
Bey’s parents rejected the idea that their son would engage in any violent behavior, both pointing to the videos he posted during the standoff in which he sought a peaceful end to the confrontation with police.
In one, Bey told a law enforcement officer: “We’re not going to threaten you guys, we’re not going to coerce you guys, we’re not going to make you guys feel threatened in any type of way.”
Bey cited court decisions, federal law, and in one video, requested police issue a summons.
“The clip that I saw of him and the state troopers, what he was doing was reciting his rights, the law that is supposed to [apply] to everyone,” Sanders said, “and that wasn’t being honored.”
Neither Sanders nor Latimer knew how Bey had become involved with the Rise of the Moors. They regularly speak with their son, they said, though conversations largely focus on family matters. Bey is engaged and the couple have a baby daughter.
“People aren’t listening [to what Bey was saying]; they’re looking at him in military gear,” Latimer said. “They’re quick to make judgments without fully understanding.”
Latimer said he last spoke to his son Tuesday, and Bey did not mention a trip to Maine. He said he wanted to visit Bey in Billerica, but hasn’t been able to make contact. Bey isn’t allowed visitors and has not been able to call, Latimer said.
Bey grew up in Rhode Island, with an older and younger sister, according to his mother. He graduated from Pawtucket’s William E. Tolman High School and joined the Marines shortly afterward, according to his parents. Latimer said his son loved the discipline of being a Marine.
Bey served for four years in the Marines, from June 2010 to June 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile that identified him as Jamhal Latimer.
After he left the Marines, he worked in a farm apprentice program in Rhode Island. In a 2016 interview with ecoRI News, Bey said he wanted to start a nonprofit farm for veterans, homeless people, and those living with substance abuse.
He said organic farming wasn’t simply about growing food, but was about the “spiritual connection to nature and the opportunity to be part of each plant’s life that pulls him so strongly,” according to the interview.
Sanders said Bey encountered obstacles to launching the program and stopped. Around that time, Bey began studying law, she said.
Sanders last saw her son Friday night, when she visited his home after work to see his daughter, she said. She tries to visit at least once a week, she said, and conversation was routine: asking about how the week went and following up on a vacation Bey had recently taken.
Bey was packing up for his Maine trip, she said, though she didn’t discuss it with him, she said.
Sanders said no guns were visible during her visit and she did not discuss the trip with Bey.
“I don’t really talk to him about that stuff... I don’t like guns, I’m afraid of guns. So I blocked that part out. It’s just not my cup of tea,” Sanders said.
Her son was looking forward to the coming weekend, she said.
“He was going to do that, and come back in a couple of days, and everything was supposed to be back to normal,” she said.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.