WAKEFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Police say 11 suspects are in custody and two are arrested after the group of heavily-armed men were engaged in an ongoing standoff Saturday with Massachusetts police, prompting shelter-in-place orders in some areas and sparking massive delays on the holiday weekend as a portion of Interstate 95 remains shut down.
Police initially said nine were taken into custody, but two additional suspects were located in their vehicles. Authorities say all the roads that were closed have been reopened, although slowdowns in the area can be expected.
Police and prosecutors have not yet determined what charges the suspects will face, but Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said she expected that all the suspects would be appearing in court on Tuesday.
The standoff began around 2 a.m. when police noticed two cars pulled over on I-95 with hazard lights on, authorities said at a Saturday press briefing.
The suspects were clad in military-style gear with long guns and pistols, Mass State Police Col. Christopher Mason said.
The men refused to put down their weapons or comply with authorities’ orders, claiming to be from a group “that does not recognize our laws,” police said. They took off into a wooded area, where two men arrested this morning.
Massachusetts State Police tweeted an alert earlier today:
Officials used negotiators to interact with the other suspects.
“Time is our ally in this and we will certainly utilize this,” Mason said.
The standoff shut down part of I-95 in Wakefield in both directions, prompting heavy traffic as people hit the road for the Fourth of July weekend.
In Massachusetts, Interstate 95 runs from the Rhode Island line, around Boston to the New Hampshire line. Wakefield is just east of where Interstate 95 and 93 meet north of Boston.
In a video posted to social media Saturday morning, a man who did not give his name, but said he was from a group called Rise of the Moors, broadcast from Interstate 95 in Wakefield near exit 57.
“We are not antigovernment. We are not anti-police, we are not sovereign citizens, we’re not Black identity extremists,” said the man who appeared to be wearing military-style equipment. “As specified multiple times to the police that we are abiding by the peaceful journey laws of the United States.”
The website for the group says they are “Moorish Americans dedicated to educating new Moors and influencing our Elders.”
Mason said he understood the suspects, who did not have firearms licenses, have a different perspective on the law.
“I appreciate that perspective,” he said “I disagree with that perspective at the end of the day, but I recognize that it’s there.”
Mason said he had no knowledge of the group, but it was not unusual for the state police to encounter people who have “sovereign citizen ideology,” although he did not know if the people involved in the Wakefield standoff was a part of that.
The men refused to put down their weapons or comply with authorities’ orders, claiming to be from a group “that does not recognize our laws” before taking off into a wooded area, police said.
Mason said the suspects surrendered after police tactical teams used armored vehicles to tighten the perimeter around them.