60-year old Brent Douglas Cole has been identified as the suspect believed to be responsible for shooting a California Highway Patrol officer and a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ranger over the weekend. Cole allegedly shot the police officer and the BLM ranger at the South Yuba River campground in Nevada County, California. Cole was also shot during the confrontation and he is currently in stable condition in a Roseville hospital. The police officer and the ranger both survived the armed assault and their wounds are not considered life threatening.
Cole has had previous altercations with law enforcement. He was arrested in January on weapons charges for carrying a loaded firearm and for having a concealed firearm in a vehicle in violation of state law. Cole identifies himself as a supporter of the “sovereign citizen’s movement”, a group that opposes taxes and believes that citizens are entitled to reject laws they disagree with. In court documents filed earlier this year, Cole reveals his conspiratorial mindset, by arguing against his gun charges as follows:
I am being persecuted for being a gun owner, and for exercising my inherent Right by unwitting or unknowing accomplices of a seditious conspiracy against rights instituted by foreign powers inimical to the United States of America.
Cole’s social media presence is littered with links to InfoWars and other right-wing conspiracy sites, as well as posts illustrating his support for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his dispute with the BLM over cattle grazing access.
The Bundy ranch standoff has become the 21st century equivalent of Ruby Ridge and Waco, where right-wing conspiracy nuts and trigger-happy militia types use the incident as a rallying cry to mobilize anti-government types to take action. The propagandists who ginned up hatred for law enforcement during the Bundy Ranch standoff are creating the same style of misguided anti-government rage that inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City two decades ago. Cop killers Jerad and Amanda Miller were inspired by the “Patriot” groups that descended upon the Bundy Ranch taunting law enforcement officials with their assault rifles and defiant rhetoric. Brent Douglas Cole appears to have drawn from the same source of inspiration.
The eliminationist rhetoric of the extreme right, the conspiratorial fear-mongering of folks like Alex Jones, and the insurrectionist ideology of pro-gun groups, are not merely harmless kooky ideas, they are the intellectual fuel powering the next generation of cop killers and domestic terrorists. If we as a nation do not take the threat of homegrown right-wing terrorism seriously, the bloodshed will grow worse in the months ahead.