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Edmond man arrested at Black Lives Matter rally on terrorist hoax complaint

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OKLAHOMA CITY — An Edmond man who identified with an anti-government extremist group was arrested Sunday during a Black Lives Matter rally in Oklahoma City and later told police he planned to detonate several smoke bombs at the gathering.

Brandon Jesse Lara, 24, was arrested on complaints of terrorist hoax, possession of explosive device, outraging public decency, and wearing a mask in the commission of a crime. The arrest happened just before 7 p.m. at the corner of Reno Avenue and Mickey Mantle Drive. The intersection was blocked from traffic as an estimated 2,500 people gathered in the street for the rally.

Officers approached Lara in the street to check a bag he had slung across his body. Inside, officers found eight cylindrical devices described as smoke bombs, each six inches long. Lara, who was wearing sunglasses and a bandana, remained in custody at the Oklahoma County jail Monday morning.

He initially told police he did not wish to be searched, demanded to be released and called his detainment illegal.

An officer who spoke with Lara said his comments were consistent with the Sovereign Citizen movement agenda and propaganda. Lara was taken into custody without incident.

The Black Lives Matter movement started at a grass-roots level in response to the killing of black men by police officers in the United States. It has since spread into an organized movement across the country. On Sunday evening, thousands of people walked down Mickey Mantle Drive in Bricktown to meet in front of Harkins Theater, 150 E. Reno Ave., to listen to organizers and advocates for criminal justice reform speak.

Lara told officers he identified with the Sovereign Citizens, said Capt. Paco Balderrama.

“Sovereigns believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate and extremist groups, writes of the movement on their website. The FBI has investigated and arrested members of the movement over the last year for money laundering and fraud.

Lara was with two family members at the rally, Balderrama said, but both of them told police they were unaware of Lara’s intent to detonate the smoke bombs and cause a disturbance.

“The theology and rhetoric is ideal for lone wolfs to get what they want from (Sovereign Citizens) philosophy from any part of the country,” Balderrama said.

Lara has no convictions in Oklahoma, and Balderrama said his department has had no other interactions with Lara.

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