(LAPLACE, La.) — Two men believed to belong to a right-wing separatist group have been charged in the shooting deaths of two Louisiana deputies during a bloody shootout in a trailer park on Aug. 16.
Brian Lyn Smith, 24, and Kyle David Joekel, 28, have each been charged with two counts of first-degree murder of a police officer and three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.
Both men were recently released from the hospital, where they’d been recovering from injuries sustained in the shootout.
Another suspect, Brittney Keith, has been charged with two counts of principal- to first-degree murder of a police officer.
Four other suspects involved in the shooting are in jail on lesser charges.
Deputies Brandon Neilsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 28, were “ambushed” by the men inside a trailer home near LaPlace, La., outside New Orleans early last Thursday morning.
One of the two suspects charged with murder exited the back of the trailer home with an assault-style weapon, killing the police officers, said St. John the Baptist Sheriff Mike Tregre.
The deputies went to the trailer park in pursuit of suspects from an earlier shootout in which two other deputies, Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche, had been wounded. Those deputies had been on an overnight traffic detail duty near the parking lot of an oil refinery.
Smith and Joekel are believed to be members of the Sovereign Citizens movement, according to police, a loosely knit right-wing organization that does not acknowledge the sovereignty of the federal government.
“Because they believe in particular law enforcement is not legitimate, they can be quite violent. Since 2000, they have linked at [least] six law enforcement deaths to sovereign citizens,” said Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and ABC News consultant.
Still recovering from their injuries, Smith and Joekel have yet to appear in court or enter pleas.
A funeral for Deputy Brandon Neilsen was held Wednesday.
“Our prayers are with the families of the fallen and injured deputies, the sheriff’s office, and all of our greater law enforcement family. State Police is committed to diligent, thorough and complete investigation of these horrific acts. We will continue to leverage our resources in this investigation to ensure that the facts are presented and those responsible for these heinous crimes are arrested,” said State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson in a statement.
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