Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force Arrest “Sovereign Citizen” on Thanksgiving on Charges Related to Domestic Terrorism

On November 26, 2020, at approximately 13:09 hours, members of the JTTF apprehended a male subject, Pepo Herd EL, a/k/a Pepo Wamchawi Herd, 47-years-olds, of 53 McLellan Street, Boston on charges relating to an ongoing domestic terror investigation. EL is an anti-government/anti-authority sovereign citizen with extremist and possibly violent ideology. The FBI defines sovereign citizens as U.S. citizens who claim to have special knowledge or heritage rendering them immune from government authority and laws. While this ideology is not illegal, sovereign citizen extremists sometimes express their ideology through physical force or violence; sovereign citizens can also use their beliefs to justify nonviolent fraud or theft. In the past, sovereign citizen extremists have engaged in shootings and armed standoffs with law enforcement officers.

iWhile under surveillance by agents, “EL” left his house on Thanksgiving morning, boarded a bus, and traveled to the Ruggles MBTA train station where at approximately 13:40 hours, agents detained him and executed the search warrant for his person. When he was stopped, EL was wearing a waist or fanny pack. In the fanny pack, searching officers found a Glock 27 pistol loaded with a magazine of ammunition and a round of ammunition in the chamber. Additonally, at the time of his detention, EL was also wearing a bullet-proof vest under his clothing and a jacket that read “security” As well as a fixed-blade knife in a sheath. 

Shortly after the stop of EL, agents initiated the search of EL’s residence at 53 McLellan Street in Boston. Special Agent Bomb Technicians (“SABT”s) made entry to ensure the residence is safe for agent search teams and for the community. In the residence, SABTs saw what appeared to be several of the household chemicals that they suspected EL was using to create homemade explosives. During the investigation agents were able to obtain records of EL’s online purchase history which included, the following:

Adam Gaffin from UniversalHub reports, “The raid came several days after one resident noticed ATF agents parked nearby for a couple of days in the lot near the giraffe entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo, a place they are not known to normally park:”

At this time EL has been charged with 8 USC § 922(g)(1); Felon in Possession of Firearms and Ammunition, however the investigation is continuing and more charges are possibly expected. In October of 2004, EL was convicted of two felony counts of possessing firearms without permits. On the same day, the jury also convicted EL of additional charges of discharging a firearm, possessing firearms without identification, possessing a stun gun, and resisting arrest. A Massachusetts District Court judge sentenced EL to two years’ imprisonment in the Massachusetts House of Corrections. 

 This investigation is ongoing with the United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division conducted by FBI Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force with substantial assistance from the Boston Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Beck and Benjamin Tolkoff of Lelling’s National Security Unit are prosecuting the case.

More information to follow.