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Slain California Cop-Killer Held ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Beliefs

By Bill Morlin on March 28, 2013 - 8:32 am, Posted in Antigovernment, Extremist Crime, Sovereign Citizens

A 36-year-old software engineer who shot and killed a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer last fall was bipolar and held antigovernment “sovereign citizen” views, an investigation by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office has concluded.

Christopher Lacy’s ideological ties to the sovereign citizen movement, whose adherents generally believe they are immune to federal tax and many criminal laws, were documented with more than 100 interviews and search warrants. But the seven-month investigation failed to determine why he shot CHP Trooper Kenyon Youngstrom on Sept. 4.

The trooper was fatally shot at close range moments after stopping Lacy’s vehicle, which had an “obstructed license plate” as it traveled on busy Interstate 680 near Alamo, Calif., the sheriff’s office said in a just-released summary statement. That was only the latest murder of a law enforcement official during a traffic stop by a sovereign citizen, most of whom believe the government has no right to regulate their driving. On May 20, 2010, two West Memphis, Ark., police officers were slain by a father-son team of sovereigns during a routine traffic stop.

The FBI has publicly classified the sovereign citizens movement as “domestic terrorist” in nature.

In the California case, CHP Trooper Tyler Carlton, who responded as backup, shot and killed Lacy at the crime scene, resulting in the closure of both directions of travel on the busy Bay Area freeway for several hours. Last week, Carlton was honored as the nation’s top trooper of the year by the International Association of Police Chiefs, who cited his extreme courage in his attempt to save Youngstrom’s life and keep the public safe, KGO-TV in San Francisco reported.

As part of their investigation into the police shooting, Contra Costa County sheriff’s detectives searched Lacy’s trailer in Corning, Calif., about 200 miles from the shooting, where they seized six computers containing encrypted files.

“Investigators found a large amount of literature on Libertarianism and the sovereign citizen movement,” the sheriff’s office summary statement said.  Lacy, it added, “had strong views” about gun rights and didn’t “agree with the role of government.” “Lacy downloaded literature on sovereign citizen [beliefs],” Detective Sgt. Jose Beltran of the sheriff’s homicide squad said in the statement.  “Although he never declared himself a ‘sovereign citizen,’ he certainly shared those viewpoints.”

On Lacy’s computers, investigators found what they described as a “wish list” that included a reference to putting “mud on [a] license plate,” the statement said. Also on Lacy’s list were references to solar panels, water filters, sleeping bags and bulletproof vests. He also had visited a website describing how to make homemade explosives, it said.

In 2006, when stopped on his motorcycle by police in Sausalito, Calif., on suspicion of drunk driving, Lacy didn’t produce a driver’s license, but handed the officer a “bill of rights” card, the shooting investigation revealed. Sovereign citizens frequently refuse to get driver’s licenses, obtain required auto insurance or register their vehicles, sometimes even printing their own license plates. Most believe the government has no right to regulate travel “upon the land.”

While attending college in 1997, Lacy “was believed to have suffered a breakdown” and “was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” but his “family believes he was misdiagnosed,” the Contra Costa sheriff’s statement said without further elaboration. During a search of Lacy’s home, investigators found a handwritten suicide note believed to have been written during his college years.

In 2010, despite his apparent history of mental illness, Lacy legally purchased the handgun that he later used to fatally shoot the trooper. The sheriff’s investigation determined Lacy did not have a concealed weapons permit and had not registered his Jeep Wrangler since 2011.

In that same year, Lacy “started to distance himself from his family and friends” and became a “loner who secluded himself,” the statement said. While continuing to work temporary jobs in the Silicon Valley, he lived in his trailer in Corning and rented a room in Sunnyvale.

“There was no indication prior to the shooting that Christopher Lacy was going to kill or assault law enforcement officials,” Beltran said. Although investigators now have a better picture of the killer, “in the end, we will never know exactly why he killed Officer Youngstrom,” the homicide supervisor added.

  • aadila


    Good thinking. Actually grapefruits themselves are dangerous, given that during World War II the United States used chemicals derived from citrus to manufacture explosives. However, I for one trust Sam to eat a grapefruit with a spork.

    One grapefruit, that is.

  • Reynardine

    Well, you know them grapefruit spoons can really massacre lots of poor, defenseless citrus, and squirt citric acid into people’s eyes while they’re doing it, too.

  • Aron

    Gregory the spork lobby has gotten to you, too?

    OH NO!!!

  • Gregory

    Sam seems to be saying that closing the gun show loophole by requiring background checks on all firearms sales will eventually lead to the same requirements for the purchase of dining utensils.

    I stand in solidarity with Sam. They can take my spork when they pry it from my cold dead fingers!


  • aadila

    I’m a hard line anti-gun person, Aron, but the rest of Sam’s comment is a slippery slope fallacy.

    By the way it would be a relatively simple matter to require a doctor’s prescription for a firearm. That way there would be adequate restriction over those deemed medically inadvisable for gun ownership, as well as rock-solid patient-doctor confidentiality.

    Of course, Sam might object because then one could no longer zip over to Walmart and buy a gun to commit a crime of passion.

  • Aron

    There are hard line anti-gun people here? Where?

    I’m a gun owner, Rey is a gun owner. I’m sure there are many more gun owners who comment here as well.

    As someone wrote yesterday:

    ‘Being for sensible gun laws does not make me anti-gun. Being for sensible traffic laws does not make me anti-car.’

    Sam, I used to think you were smarter than this. Now I’m starting to have my doubts.

  • Sam Molloy

    CoralSea, you have nailed the problem with adding Mental Health records to Firearms Instant Background Checks. As you know, they were part of the original proposal but were dropped because of ACLU protests. Nobody fought back to include them, probably because of the issues you raised being so complicated. The record of what people have done is concrete evidence. For the hard line anti gun people on here, it’s a series of predictable small steps to requiring them for Bowie knives then Pocket knives, then razor blades then metal eating utensils.

  • CoralSea

    Aron — I agree that it would be better to have more resources available to help people who have mood disorders such as Bipolar, however, I also understand where Satouri is coming from. I, too, have Bipolar (as I have written before). Fortunately for me, my condition is not severe and is easily managed with a medication that has recently gone generic, meaning that it is now about $20 per month rather than the $200 it was several years ago.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people who are/were uninsured cannot afford such treatment — you do have to budget for doctor’s visits several times a year, too, so they can “check up with you” and write you a new prescription. The insurance companies themselves also used to throw major roadblocks in front of people who were taking anti-depressants, telling them that they had to get off the meds or they couldn’t get insured. And then, even though it wasn’t supposed to be that way, I know people who got let go from their jobs after bosses learned they were taking anti-depressants.

    As Satouri said, the “proud” ones (or, in my experience, the ones with family members who can’t deal with “mental illness”) go off their meds or don’t take them to begin with. I will add that from what I have heard from doctors over the years, people will mood disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, Bi-polar) usually want help and seek it out, while people with personality disorders (e.g., narcissism, borderline, psychopathy, sociopathy, anti-social disorder) think they are just fine the way they are and actively refuse treatment.

    So maybe this Lacy fellow actually had a personality disorder (and the Bipolar diagnosis was wrong), or he had rip-roaring bipolar, but was also just a twisted up person. A lot of people who don’t fit the diagnostic criteria for mental illness (at least as administered by a run-of-the-mill healthcare provider) can still perform criminal acts or believe crazy ideas.

    I understand concerns about categorizing anyone with a mental illness — meaning depression and Bipolar — as potentially dangerous. Obviously, since I am bipolar, I don’t like the idea. But there should be some middle ground for determining whether someone’s mental illness status plus prior acts of violence or well-formed-thoughts of such acts should mean that they probably shouldn’t be able to buy a gun legally.

  • Aron


    Maybe you should actually look into just WHAT IS MEANT by expanded infrastructure. No men in clean white coats will be coming after you.

    There will simply be more people looking out for your well being.

  • Satorui

    as someone who has bipolar disorder and isn’t a crazy violent racist I;d point out that I don’t want expanded mental health infrastructure cause I’d be afraid of being thrown in a asylum with the crazy violent ones. some of us, like me, try to control ourselves and yes creative ability and bipolar are linked I can assure you. the bipolar and mentally people who do turn violent are always the ones who are too proud to get help and can’t admit they have a problem. I just don’t like it commentators on a site that’s supposed to be against discrimination talks like this about people who were simply dealt a shit hand in the genetic lottery.

  • Tobias A. Weissman

    Oh! How human nature can excuse their criminal activities by declaring themselves as Sovereign Citizens or Bipolar or any other so-called Politisized name. They live in a country and glean from that country. They should stop thinking of themselves as high and mighty and follow the rules.

  • Keith L Hatfield

    You can have all the national background check infrastructure you desire up and running, but as long as college administrators, campus safety officials, and mental health professionals keep punting on these individuals, the NICS system will not have a record of these prohibited persons.

    If you don’t believe that the law and society provide you with the tools to help protect your charges from themselves, from society, or society from them, then quit whining, speak out and demand wrap-around care for adolescents, mandatory outpatient treatment orders, and adequate/accessible bed space for acute care situations.

    Do you think James Holmes, Jarred Loughner, Sueng-Hui Cho, Michael Wade Page, and Adam Lanza’s providers have just a few regrets? We all make mistakes or fall short despite our best efforts, but I have to believe you can redeem yourself, so would these providers please step forward as a new “Gang of Five” and lobby for a better system! Obama Care is here, you can shape reality for the better.

  • concernedcitizen

    The FBI has publicly classified the sovereign citizens movement as “domestic terrorist” in nature.

    Thank you! Because I believe that these people don’t just turn their agenda’s against cops, there are those that are exacting worse behaviors upon citizens in our communities.

    It is in line with terrorist beliefs and a cowards way of waging war upon innocent citizens. Except they are far worse because they are disguised as our neighbors.

  • Sam Molloy

    So what type of temporary jobs can you work with a homemade ID?

  • Kiwiwriter


    Shot a cop.

    And a “Sovereign Citizen.”

    You know, when I read about the inner workings of some of these extremist groups, I’m struck by how mental illness keeps turning up. Raphael Ezekiel noted in “The Racist Mind” that the neo-Nazi leaders he interviewed always had a “pet crazy.”

    And I recall the story about in the Intelligence Report some years ago about the neo-Nazis who left one of their women paralyzed for life, nearly killing her. The leader of that bunch was also taking a cocktail of meds for his bipolar issues.

    And the guy who frightened Elie Wiesel in the hotel in San Francisco. Also bipolar.

    Over and over again I read about these guys…bipolar.

    And these people are supposed to be the “vanguard of the white race.” They think they’re superior to Garrett A. Morgan, Zora Neale Hurston, Whitney Moore Young, and Shirley Chisholm, because of the melanin content in their skin.

    The elite of the white race. And they think they’re being held down and discriminated against by “reverse racism.”

    You know, I’d like to see some of these guys take over a small, uninhabited island, or just set up a compound in the middle of nowhere, and try to run their own society, without any connection whatsoever, to the rest of the world. All by themselves. Make their own food, get their own power with solar panels, dig for their own water, the whole thing.

    See how long the vanguard of the white race would last on its own, without Jews and blacks to whine about and blame.