Jul. 8—The armed militia members who were arrested on a Massachusetts highway on Saturday were traveling in two vehicles that had Maine license plates, raising more questions about the group's ties to the state.
The group surrendered to police after a standoff shut down Interstate 95 near Boston for hours over the holiday weekend. Eleven people — 10 adult men and one 17-year-old boy — are facing criminal charges related to illegal firearms possession.
Court documents obtained by NewsCenter Maine revealed the vehicles carrying the group had Maine plates, one more indication of a Maine connection that is part of a broader ongoing investigation. The man who identified himself as the leader of the militia initially told police that they were going to private land in Maine to train. The group has also said they are members of a group called Rise of the Moors, and they claim they are not subject to federal or state laws.
Shannon Moss, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Thursday that she could not discuss the investigation. The Maine Information and Analysis Center has been monitoring the investigation by other jurisdictions and is aware of the Maine license plates, she said, but information related to ownership of registered vehicles is not a public record.
"It's important to note that there is no public safety threat or concerns at this time in Maine," Moss wrote in an email Thursday.
It wasn't immediately clear who obtained the plates or how they came to be attached to the vehicles. Massachusetts police said the group was traveling in a 2018 Ford Transit van and a 2006 Honda Ridgeline pickup. The Ford had an unregistered Maine plate, and its registration had been revoked in Massachusetts in 2020. The Honda also had an unregistered Maine plate, and its Massachusetts registration had been cancelled last year.
Among the items recovered from the vehicles were multiple firearms and ammunition. Police said the men did not have licenses to carry firearms in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts police said the standoff started just after 1 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 95 in Wakefield. A trooper stopped to offer assistance to two vehicles parked on the side of the highway. He encountered men holding firearms, dressed in military-style clothing and body armor. The self-described leader said they were militia traveling from Rhode Island to Maine for "training" on private land, and they were exempt from firearms laws because they were militia, according to the police report.
"I'm going to stay armed for my safety just like you are going to stay armed for yours," Jamhal Latimer, also known as Jamhal Talib Abdullah Bey, told police when they asked him to put down his weapon.
Several members of the group moved toward the woods, and the leader refused to put down his rifle and surrender. Police shut down the highway, and a standoff began. The armed men surrendered after several hours of negotiation.
It is still not clear if the group was really headed to Maine and, if so, where. Latimer told authorities the group was going to train on his property, according to at least one Massachusetts news report. A search of online deed records held by each of Maine's sixteen counties found no record of Latimer having ever owned property in Maine, either under his own name or under that of his alias.
Some of the 11 people charged in connection with the standoff refused to cooperate with court authorities during their arraignments Tuesday.
One defendant told the judge he is a "foreign national" who cannot face criminal charges, while he also invoked the Second Amendment right to bear arms and said he meant no harm. Another defendant who has refused to identify himself to authorities told the judge he was a "free Moor."
Rise of the Moors, based in Rhode Island, contend they are "foreign nationals" and outside the authority of the U.S. government.
Even though the Southern Poverty Law Center says the group is part of a Moorish sovereign citizen movement, the group says on its website that they are not sovereign citizens, but the original sovereigns of the U.S. based on a 1789 letter from George Washington to the sultan of Morocco.
Staff Writer Colin Woodard contributed to this report.