Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Georgia “sovereign citizen” who twice attempted to pull one of the half-dozen guns he had within reach inside his car decorated with a hand-painted Confederate flag.
A Towns County sheriff’s deputy and an agent from the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office stopped 30-year-old Dustin Lee Gunnells, of Hiawassee, for an unspecified misdemeanor traffic offense Wednesday, reported WKRK-AM.
“Immediately the driver exhibited aggression towards the officers and began making statements consistent with ‘sovereign citizen type beliefs,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Rather than comply with deputies, the driver reached for a gun.”
The deputies feared for their safety but did not shoot, and instead broke out a window in Gunnell’s car and physically removed him from the vehicle. Gunnells then tried to reach for a gun he kept in a holster at the small of his back, deputies said, but they were able to subdue him and take away his weapon.
One of the deputies suffered minor injuries from broken glass, and they said Gunnells refused medical treatment for minor injuries.
Deputies said they found six guns — a 9mm hand gun, a .45-caliber handgun, a .40-caliber handgun, a .44 magnum caliber short rifle, and a .223-caliber AR-15 military-style rifle — and extra ammunition inside Gunnells’ car. Each of the weapons was loaded, and all but the AR-15 had rounds within the chamber, authorities said.
Two of the handguns, including the one Gunnells kept holstered at his back, were cocked, investigators said.
Gunnells, whose Facebook page shows support for border militias and an interest in conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, was charged with six counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer and six counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
His grandmother, who has decorated the outside of her home with numerous Confederate flags and a “Justice 4 Dusty” banner, claims the plainclothes deputies targeted Gunnells because he had the symbol painted on his trunk and held an open carry permit.
“He painted the confederate battle strips on the trunk of his car as a demonstration of first amendment right to Free Speech and these officers used profiling to challenge him,” said his grandmother, Lori Skinner.
Skinner suggested the deputies must have found something to initiate the stop when they ran his license plate number, but she thought they should have consulted local law enforcement and found “he is a kind outdoors type person (and) not some gun mad criminal looking for a fight.”