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11 People in Custody After Hourslong Armed Standoff on Massachusetts Highway


Traffic on Interstate 95 is diverted in the area of an hourslong standoff with a group of armed men, July 3, 2021, in Wakefield, Mass.

An hourslong standoff with a group of heavily armed men that partially shut down Interstate 95 ended Saturday with 11 suspects in custody, Massachusetts state police said.

Police initially reported nine suspects were taken into custody, but two more were taken into custody in their vehicle later Saturday morning.

Two suspects were hospitalized, but police said it was for preexisting conditions that had nothing to do with the standoff.

State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said the suspects surrendered after police tactical teams used armored vehicles to tighten the perimeter around them.

The standoff shut down a portion of I-95 for much of the morning, causing major traffic problems during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Authorities later said the interstate had been reopened and that the shelter-in-place orders for Wakefield and Reading had been lifted.

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.

Headed for 'training'

The standoff began around 2 a.m. when police noticed two cars pulled over on I-95 with hazard lights on after they had apparently run out of fuel, authorities said at a Saturday press briefing.

At least some of the suspects were clad in military-style gear with long guns and pistols, Mason said. He added that they were headed to Maine from Rhode Island for "training."

"You can imagine 11 armed individuals standing with long guns slung on an interstate highway at 2 in the morning certainly raises concerns and is not consistent with the firearms laws that we have in Massachusetts," Mason said.

He 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."

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.

Police and prosecutors were working to determine what charges the members of the group would face.

The suspects were expected to appear in court in Woburn on Tuesday, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said.

Not anti-government, leader says

Mason said the "self-professed leader" of the group wanted it to be known that they were not anti-government.

"I think the investigation that follows from this interaction will provide us more insight into what their motivation, what their ideology is," Mason said.

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 anti-government. 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. He said that "as specified multiple times to the police," the group members were "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 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 were a part of that.

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