WEST MEMPHIS, AR - The truth about the accused West Memphis cop killers is slowly being revealed, as myEyewitnessNews.com learns more about 45-year-old Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son.
Investigators say the Kanes shot and killed West Memphis Police Officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans during a traffic stop along I-40 on Thursday, May 20, 2010. Crittenden County Sheriff Richard Busby and his Chief Deputy W.A. Wren were also injured in a shootout that followed in the West Memphis Walmart parking lot, ending with both suspects shot to death.
Kane and his son, by all accounts, didn't trust the U.S. Government. They didn't respect it, didn't think the laws that apply to the citizens in this country applied to them. They had particular beliefs and habits, like thinking they didn't need driver's licenses.
When those beliefs came into conflict with Officers Paudert and Evans, it was, according to hate group experts and friends of the Kanes, the perfect storm.
"I don't want to kill anybody," Jerry Kane can be heard saying in a video posted on his website. "But if you keep messing with me, that's the way it's going to come out. And if I have to kill one, I'm not going to be able to stop."
Before going out in a blaze of bullets in West Memphis, Arkansas, this week, the Ohio native traveled the country, teaching mortgage fraud seminars and preaching anti-governments sentiments.
"I think Jerry Kane was very clearly known on the American radical right as a sovereign citizen," says Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights agency that tracks hate groups in America. "He was someone who felt the government has no right to issue driver's licenses, to tax people or indeed, to make them subject to most criminal laws."
Jerry Kane's minivan has already been traced back to a church once affiliated with violent white supremacists and the Aryan Nation. Friends confirm that Kane was anti-government, but they insist he was not a hate-filled racist.
"This guy was the best friend I had on the planet," says William Ligiu Ionescu, a California blogger and former host on the now defunct "We The People Radio Network". "I'm telling you, those officers did something outside the ordinary where Jerry and Joe were practiced, because Jerry did everything by the book with paper. They had the paper to prove they were in the right."
Ionescu says Jerry Kane kept the ashes of his deceased wife and their baby girl in his car. If West Memphis Police pulled Kane over and tried to search his car, Ionescu says Kane would have told the officers to get a warrant or give him a cash payment before allowing entry into his vehicle.
And, says Ionescu, Jerry would defend his property to the death. Friends and family confirm that Kane owned an AK-47, and had used it often to hunt or practice at the range.
"For someone to get shot by Jerry's hand," Ionescu says, "means he told them that if you do that, if you try to enter my car, I will kill you. And they (Officers Paudert and Evans), did it anway."
Kane's teenage son, Joseph, is described by friends as "a well-rounded, wholesome young man" with a "healthy outlook and a golden future." Ionescu says Joe was deeply devoted to his father.
"If his dad fired at somone," he says, "Joseph will pick up a gun and fire, too. That's natural."
Hate group experts say Jerry Kane and his son are just the tip of the iceberg in the U.S. right now.
"This is only the latest manifestation," says Mark Potok of the SPLC, "of a movement that's been extremely explosive in this country over the last year or so. I think it's very possible Kane went into a rage. The great mystery to Jerry Kane is...what was his relationship to the old Aryan Nation headquarters in New Vienna, Ohio?"
Those who knew and loved Jerry and Joe Kane point the finger of blame in this tragedy squarely at the police. The cops, they say, went too far when they unloaded on the Kane's minivan.
"I'll tell you right now," says Ionescu, "had I been in that van, I'd be dead right now, whether I picked up a weapon or not."
Jerry Kane has previous arrests in Ohio for assault, forgery and vehicle theft. He was pulled over at a checkpoint last month along Highway 380 in Lincoln County, New Mexico and arrested for not having a driver's license.
Lt. Eric Garcia, a spokesperson for the New Mexico State Police, says Kane was asked to provide an i.d. and refused. He was asked to step out of his car and complied, but when asked again for his license, he refused a second time. He was taken into custody without incident. Kane's son, says Lt. Garcia, was not with him during the incident. There was an unidentified woman in the van who was not arrested.
When Kane was shot and killed Thursday, he was actually wanted on a misdemeanor warrant for failure to appear in court on those charges out of New Mexico.
Interestingly, when asked what his profession was, Kane told New Mexico State Police that he was the pastor of the House of God's Prayer, which is the name of the controversial church in Ohio. The former pastor of the church, Harold Ray Redfeairn, became the leader of the Aryan Nation, and went to jail in 1993 for trying to kill a police officer. He was paroled in 1991 and died in 2003.
Ionescu tells myEyewitnessNews.com he fired off an e-mail to the West Memphis Police Department demanding compensation to pay for the funerals of Jerry and Joe Kane. Kane's common-law wife in Florida, Donna Lee Wray, also posted a request for donations on Kane's website.