Jerad and Amanda Miller – the couple who shot and killed two police officers at lunch and a third person in a Las Vegas Wal-Mart – were part of the “Patriot” movement.
But their violent outburst, which ended with both of them dead, is atypical for an antigovernment movement that ranges from militias and tax protesters to those who consider themselves “sovereign citizens,” plus those believing in various conspiracies involving big government encroachment on individual rights.
The Millers appear not to have been involved with any particular group. What’s known about their beliefs, and any plans that they might have had to act on those beliefs, comes mainly from Mr. Miller’s Facebook page – the kind of communicating that many like-minded individuals engage in in the age of social media.
But their beliefs come directly from the militia wing of the Patriot movement, says Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, who has studied antigovernment radical groups for many years.
This includes the belief that the rest of the world has been taken over by a tyrannical one-world government dubbed the “New World Order,” which seeks to strip everyone of their rights and freedoms, starting with the right to bear arms.
“Once we are rendered defenseless by our own government, [the United States] too will be absorbed into the New World Order,” says Mr. Pitcavage in an e-mail, explaining the belief. “If you examine Jerad Miller’s Facebook page, you will see his references to the New World Order, as well as all the subsidiary conspiracy theories: that the government will declare martial law, that it will or already has set up concentration camps for Americans, that there will be gun confiscation, that the government is poisoning the American people using chemtrails, etc.”
The militia movement encompasses not only paramilitary group members, but all others who share its general ideology, Pitcavage adds. “[The Millers'] ideology and beliefs were not unusual for the Patriot movement. They simply had an extreme ideology and decided to act on it in a violent fashion,” he says.
That violence seems to have been foretold on Mr. Miller’s Facebook page. On May 2 he posted:
“There is no greater cause to die for than liberty,” he wrote. “Yes, standing before despots is dangerous and most likely does not end well for you. I know this, my wife knows this. Soon they will come for us, because they don’t like what we think, and what we say. They don’t like the fact that we simply will not submit to fascist rule.”
As in most such cases, the personal and the political mixes in complex fashion, saying as much about the individual as it does about any ideology he or she may follow.
Mr. Miller had a “warrior-victim complex,” says criminologist Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, where he specializes in the analysis of hate crimes, terrorism, and legal issues.
“He didn’t like cops and judges to begin with,” says Professor Levin, noting his previous run-ins with the law as well as his (and his wife’s) emotional instability, desire to vent, estrangement from family and community, personal setbacks, and desire to take back personal pride.
“We make these offenders larger than life, when really they’re smaller than life,” Levin says. “Ideology becomes the springboard for somebody who is already violence-prone.” That springboard, he adds, comes with an overlay of increasing violence in popular culture, as well as the attraction of achieving celebrity status – however twisted by hate, emotional instability, or mental illness that attraction might be.
It’s important to note that most people involved in the Patriot movement do not act on such beliefs in violent fashion, Levin says: “Skepticism about the government goes across the political spectrum, which is quite healthy.”
The Millers’ rampage in Las Vegas came just five days after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he was reviving a special unit devoted to monitoring domestic terrorism that fell dormant in the aftermath of the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, notes Mark Potok, who runs the Hatewatch blog for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
In addition to Islamist terrorists, Mr. Holder said in a statement, "We must also concern ourselves with the continued danger we face from individuals within our own borders who may be motivated by a variety of other causes from anti-government animus to racial prejudice.”
The attack in Las Vegas follows several other recent instances of domestic terrorism, says the SPLC, citing the murder in April of three people at Jewish institutions near Kansas City, Mo.; the bombing of the Boston Marathon last year; and a neo-Nazi attack on a Sikh temple in 2012.
Meanwhile, right-wing conspiracy theories continue, fueled by the talk radio that the Millers listened to.
John Avlon, Daily Beast editor in chief, notes that radio host Alex Jones claims that the Millers’ attack was a “false flag” operation perpetrated by Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada.
“There is so much proof of this being staged yesterday, when I first read about it, and this morning, that my mind exploded with hundreds of data points, and quite frankly it’s conclusive,” Mr. Jones told his audience. “I kept telling, they’re getting ready to false flag, and it happens right in Harry Reid’s district, right in his state, right in his city, with his police department.”