In what began as a routine stop, a Massachusetts State Police trooper spotted a group of motorists on the shoulder of Interstate 95 early Saturday morning and pulled over to help. The encounter soon spiraled into an hours-long confrontation between nearly a dozen men armed with high-powered rifles and police.
The standoff, which ended peacefully, forced the shutdown of a busy highway over the holiday weekend while nearby residents were told to shelter in their homes. All 11 men were arrested, and numerous firearms were seized.
Members of the group were arraigned in Malden District Court on Tuesday.
Here’s what we know so far about the standoff that took place, the group, the suspects involved in the incident, and the charges they face.
What happened at the arraignment?
Suspects in the standoff, who are part of the Rhode Island group called “Rise of Moors,” sparred with a judge at their arraignment on Tuesday. The proceedings for 10 members of the group were bogged down, as the men asserted that the court lacked the authority to prosecute them on firearms charges.
Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer, who goes by Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, identified himself as the leader of the faction during the confrontation in Wakefield. Bey said he did not understand how the charges could be brought against him. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf, and he was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Friday.
Throughout the proceedings, the suspects refused to directly answer the questions posed to them by the judge, the Probation Department, and the defense lawyers poised to represent them. Several of the men waived their right to counsel. Not-guilty pleas were entered for each of the suspects.
Who are the suspects?
State Police have identified eight members of the group arrested on Saturday.
Two of the men arrested are from Rhode Island: 29-year-old Bey, of Providence, and 40-year-old Quinn Cumberlander, of Pawtucket.
The other men identified are Robert Rodriguez, 21, of the Bronx, N.Y.; Wilfredo Hernandez, who is also known as Will Musa, 23, of the Bronx, N.Y.; Alban El Curraugh, 27, of the Bronx, N.Y.; Aaron Lamont Johnson, who is also known as Tarrif Sharif Bey, 29, of Detroit; Lamar Dow, 34, of the Bronx, N.Y.; and Conrad Pierre, 29, of Baldwin, N.Y.
Two of the men in the group have refused to identify themselves to authorities and are being held as John Does, State Police said. One of the males arrested is 17 years old.
State Police said none of the men had licenses to carry firearms. So far, law enforcement has confiscated eight guns from the group, including three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun, and a short barrel rifle.
What charges are they facing?
All members of the group are facing the following state charges: unlawful possession of a firearm (eight counts), unlawful possession of ammunition, use of body armor in the commission of a crime, possession of a high capacity magazine, improper storage of firearms in a vehicle, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Johnson, Hernandez, Dow, one of the unidentified men, and the juvenile are also charged with providing a false name to police, State Police said.
Authorities are seeking warrants to search the group’s van and pickup truck. State Police said additional charges are possible.
How severe could the penalties be if the suspects are convicted?
A legal expert told the Globe on Tuesday that if convicted, members of the group could face “severe” penalties due to the strict gun laws in Massachusetts.
The most significant charge they are facing, according to the expert, appears to be the possession of a high-capacity magazine. In other states, the penalties would not be as severe, but in Massachusetts, the charge carries a 2.5-year mandatory minimum in state prison and up to a maximum of 10 years.
How did the confrontation begin?
The incident began when a state trooper on patrol along the highway spotted two vehicles on the side of the road in Wakefield at about 1:30 in the morning. When the trooper pulled over, he found himself facing a group of men dressed in military uniforms. Some of the men had long guns slung across their bodies, while others had handguns in holsters.
When the trooper asked the men if they had licenses to drive or licenses for the guns, the men indicated that they did not have them or did not have any with them, according to police. The trooper then called for backup.
State Police established a “hard perimeter” surrounding the group, and negotiators began speaking with the men. Some of the men fled into the woods nearby, but others remained with their vehicles.
The group, driving a van and pickup truck, said they had pulled over to refuel when State Police approached. The group said they were carrying camping gear and fuel inside their vehicles.
Bey identified himself as the leader of the group and said he was a Marine Corps veteran. He said the group was headed to private land in Maine to train, and that they had brought their own fuel out of fear of causing alarm if they stopped at a gas station.
How was the standoff eventually resolved?
After several hours, the standoff ended peacefully and without incident. All 11 members of the group were arrested, and their firearms were seized by police. The stretch of highway between Lynnfield and Stoneham that had been closed during the confrontation was reopened late Saturday morning.
Throughout the standoff, the men broadcast their negotiations with police over social media. Bey repeatedly claimed the men were not antipolice and did not intend any violence.
It is against state law for people to carry loaded or unloaded firearms on public ways like an interstate highway, despite Bey’s claims during his broadcast that court decisions, constitutional matters, and federal law would have allowed the group to do so. Before sunrise, Bey also told the group not to answer any questions from authorities. He also encouraged police at another point to call the Moroccan consulate.
The men denied being antigovernment or sovereign citizens during the standoff. Despite some members of the group fleeing into the woods during the encounter, police eventually arrested all of the men involved. The two vehicles being driven by the group were swept for explosives before being towed away.
What do we know about the group?
The encounter has drawn attention to a little-known fringe group called the “Rise of the Moors.” The group’s website describes the organization as a collective of “Moorish Americans” whose members believe they are the “original sovereigns of this land — America.”
The website said the group is based in Pawtucket, R.I., and that its members refuse to pay taxes because they “are not represented within their body politic.”
In videos posted to social media, the “Rise of the Moors” members are Black men dressed in military gear, displaying military-style weapons and Morocco’s flag. The men were traveling through Massachusetts under a Moroccan flag attached to their vehicles.
A senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism told the Globe that the “Rise of the Moors” is a relatively new and fairly small group that has distinguished itself by demonstrating an interest in paramilitary activity. The group is an extension of the sovereign citizen movement and has drawn some of their beliefs from a religious sect known as the Moorish Science Temple.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the “Rise of the Moors” is one of 25 active antigovernment sovereign-citizen groups identified in 2020. It is an early 1990s offshoot of a movement steeped in decades-old conspiracy theories, according to the civil rights group.
The group, according to experts, believes that the United States has no authority over them and that federal and state laws do not apply to members of the organization. During the encounter with police, Bey insisted that the group is not composed of Black-identity extremists, nor are they antipolice or antigovernment.
What do we know about the suspects?
Little is known so far about the men arrested in the standoff.
The parents of Bey told the Globe on Sunday that he is a loving son and father who served for years in the Marine Corps. His mother said that he is not violent, nor is he antipolice or antigovernment. Both Bey’s mother, Felicia Sanders, and his father, Steven Latimer, said they were stunned by the charges and questioned the evidence being used to support them.
Sanders and Latimer, both Providence residents, said they were proud of their son. They rejected the idea that their son would engage in violent behavior.
Sanders said that Bey identifies as Moor, and that it is her belief he is being unfairly treated by law enforcement because of his skin color. Neither Sanders nor Latimer knew how Bey had become involved with the “Rise of the Moors.”
Along with an older and younger sister, Bey grew up in Rhode Island, Sanders said. His parents said he joined the Marines after graduating from high school. According to the Marine Corps, Bey joined the service in 2010 and left active duty in 2015 with the rank of corporal. He was awarded several medals as part of his service, including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.
After a difficult transition out of the military, Bey found himself at Blue Skys Farm in Cranston, R.I. An apprenticeship program through a local USDA office led him to the farm owned by Christina Dedora in April 2016, who told the Globe that despite the experience starting off “really good ... it didn’t end that way.”
John Hilliard, Laura Crimaldi, Amanda Milkovits, Amanda Kaufman, and Tonya Alanez of Globe staff contributed to this report. Globe correspondents Jack Lyons, Kate Lusignan, Alexandra Chaidez, and Nick Stoico also contributed to this report.