2 men convicted in 2021 armed standoff on Massachusetts highway

BOSTON (AP) — Two men have been convicted for their role in an armed standoff on a busy Massachusetts highway in 2021 that lasted more than eight hours and caused traffic delays during a busy Fourth of July weekend.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced Friday that Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer and Steven Anthony Perez were found guilty on multiple gun charges related to the standoff. They will be sentenced July 16.

“The defendants in this case disrupted multiple communities and jeopardized the safety of many residents who were traveling or intending to travel on a busy Fourth of July weekend,” Ryan said in a statement. “Both Jamhal Tavon Sanders Latimer and Steven Anthony Perez demonstrated a disregard for our laws and failed to comply with the directives of multiple police agencies on scene. In Massachusetts we have strict laws regarding the licensing of firearms. When individuals come here with weapons, especially high capacity firearms like the ones these defendants had, without being in compliance, they create a substantial danger.”

Phone numbers for Latimer and Perez could not be found.

The two were part of a group called Rise of the Moors that claimed they were on their way to Maine for training when a state trooper stopped to ask if they needed help. That sparked the hourslong standoff on Interstate 95 after some members of the group ran into the woods alongside the highway.

Nearly a dozen people were arrested and state police say they recovered three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun and a short-barrel rifle. The men, who were dressed in military fatigues and body armor and were armed with long guns and pistols, did not have licenses to carry firearms in the state.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the Moorish sovereign citizen movement is a collection of independent organizations and individuals that emerged in the 1990s as an offshoot of the antigovernment sovereign citizens movement. People in the movement believe individual citizens hold sovereignty over and are independent of the authority of federal and state governments. They have frequently clashed with state and federal authorities over their refusal to obey laws.

The vast majority of Moorish sovereign citizens are African American, according to the SPLC.