An hour-long standoff with a group of heavily armed men that partially shut down Interstate 95 ended Saturday with 11 suspects in custody, Massachusetts State Police said.
Police initially reported that nine suspects were arrested, but two more were arrested from their vehicles later Saturday morning.
Two suspects were hospitalized, but police said it was for pre-existing conditions that had nothing to do with the standoff.
Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said the suspects turned themselves in after police tactical teams used armored vehicles to tighten the perimeter around them.
The standoff shut down part of I-95 for much of the morning, causing major traffic issues over the July 4 holiday weekend. A shelter-in-place order for Wakefield and Reading was also in place for the morning.
In Massachusetts, I-95 runs from the Rhode Island line, around Boston to the New Hampshire line. Wakefield is just east of the intersection of Interstates 95 and 93 north of Boston.
The clash began around 2 a.m. when police noticed two cars stopped on I-95 with hazard lights on after apparently running out of fuel, authorities said at a Saturday press briefing.
At least some of the suspects were dressed in military-style gear with long guns and pistols, Mason said. He added that they were heading to Maine from Rhode Island for “training.”
“You can imagine that 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung over their shoulders on a freeway at 2 a.m. certainly raises concerns and does not comply with the gun laws we have in Massachusetts,” a said Mason.
He said he understood the suspects, who did not have firearms licenses, had a different perspective on the law.
“I appreciate that perspective,” he said. “I don’t agree with that perspective ultimately, but I recognize it’s there.”
The men refused to lay down their weapons or comply with authorities’ orders, claiming to be from a group “that does not recognize our laws” before fleeing into a wooded area, police said.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and Massachusetts State Police identified the suspects as: Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer (also known as Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey), 29, of Providence; Robert Rodriguez, 21, of the Bronx; Wilfredo Hernandez (also known as Will Musa), 23, from the Bronx; Alban El Curraugh, 27, of the Bronx; Aaron Lamont Johnson (also known as Tarrif Sharif Bey), 29, of Detroit; Quinn Cumberlander, 40, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island; Lamar Dow, 34, of the Bronx; Conrad Stone, 29, of Baldwin, New York; a 17-year-old boy; and two men who declined to identify themselves.
The 11 men are all charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, use of body armor in the commission of a crime, possession of a large capacity magazine, improper storage of firearms in a vehicle and conspiracy to commit a crime, according to a joint statement from the Middlesex DA office and the Massachusetts State Police. Four of the suspects are also accused of giving police a false name.
The teenager will be returned to parental custody. The other 10 will each be held on $100,000 cash bail at Billerica Reformatory, authorities said.
The suspects are due to appear in Malden District Court on Tuesday, Middlesex DA Marian Ryan said.
Mason said the group’s “self-proclaimed leader” wanted people to know they weren’t anti-government.
“I think the investigation that stems from this interaction will give us a better insight into their motivation, their ideology,” Mason said.
In a video posted to social media on Saturday morning, a man who did not give his name but said he belonged to a group called Rise of the Moors, which broadcasts from Interstate 95 in Wakefield near exit 57.
“We are not anti-government. We are not anti-police, we are not sovereign citizens, we are not black identity extremists,” said the man who appeared to be wearing military-style gear. “As repeatedly specified to the police, we follow the peaceful travel laws of the United States.”
The group’s website states that they are “American Moors dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our elders”.
Freddy Cruz, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center specializing in anti-government extremism, told WBUR that it’s very common for extremist groups to refuse affiliation.
“These Moorish sovereign groups will try to say they’re not sovereign citizens,” Cruz said. “In some cases they will say they are not militias even when they are full militias with a hierarchy in place, with leaders and rank and file members.
Cruz said the men calling themselves Rise of the Moors who were apprehended in Wakefield met many criteria for “pseudo-legal nonsense”: a refusal to recognize the United States government, a claim to be a sovereign nation, contempt for vehicle or weapon licenses and disbelief in taxation.
“In their world, a better society can be built, fairer and fairer. With Rise of Moors, they’ll be trying to take over a property or claim an abandoned house,” Cruz said. “A lot of these bands are trying to do this with the idea that they can provide a better life for their followers… often, unfortunately, I think people who have been through difficult times tend to embrace a lot of these beliefs with the idea that their lives can be improved in some way.
Associated Press material was used in this report. WBUR’s Quincy Walters contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: Authorities have issued a correction on where the arraignment will take place. The post has been updated.