2 arrested in burglary related to Moorish sovereign citizens group claiming ownership of homes

WOODWAY, Wash. — Two suspects claiming to be affiliated with a Moorish National group were arrested late Friday after burglarizing a home in the town of Woodway, Edmonds police said.

A 46-year-old Mountlake Terrace man and a 32-year-old Tacoma woman were booked into the Snohomish County Jail, and their car was impounded as evidence in the case.

>>‘Sovereign citizens’ claiming waterfront homes in Woodway, Edmonds

Last month, Edmonds detectives say a group knocked on doors in the most upscale neighborhoods in Woodway and Edmonds, identifying themselves as Moorish Sovereign Citizens. They carry official-looking documents, say they own the property and announce they’re moving in.

“They have basically come to say that they’re from this particular group and they’re there to repossess the home and want the people to vacate the premises,” Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure told KIRO 7′s Gary Horcher last month. “Their group believes that they own all of the land between Alaska and Argentina and all the islands in between. Unfortunately, Edmonds falls between that land.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Moorish Sovereign Citizens as an extremist group, saying members, “...believe their status as members of a sovereign nation imparts immunity from federal, state and local authorities.”

Friday’s incident began around 9 p.m. at a home in the 21700 block of Chinook Road in Woodway when a neighbor called to report that there were two people in the house, which was vacant and had just been sold.

A few minutes later, the alarm company for the home called and reported the system had been tripped multiple times.

Edmonds officers responded to the call as a burglary in progress. The first officer to arrive found a vehicle parked outside the locked gate to the home, and two suspects, a man and a woman, were on the other side.

Arriving officers jumped over the fence and were quickly met by a woman who accused officers of trespassing on her property, Edmonds police said. The man who was with her was recognized by officers as having been recently trespassed from several homes in the area after claiming affiliation with the Moorish group.

Both suspects were detained but were uncooperative during the investigation, police said.

Police said suspects had posted a notice on the properties for sale sign indicating they owned the property under Moroccan law.

Officers gathered statements from witnesses who said the couple had entered the home. They also collected surveillance video showing the suspects inside the house and established probable cause for their arrest.

The vehicle the suspects arrived in was impounded pending a search warrant.

Since October, there have been five other incidents in Edmonds and Woodway involving individuals claiming affiliation with a Moorish group. Police said one of the people arrested Friday had been present and/or was criminally trespassed during the other investigations.