After refusing to leave his Garfield apartment on the grounds that he was a sovereign citizen and didn’t have to abide by the rules of this nation, a Black man was killed during a confrontation with deputies.
William Hardison Sr., a 63-year-old who identified nationally as a Moor, exchanged hundreds of rounds of gunfire with law enforcement after they came to evict him from the property on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 23.
Seven deputies arrived at his home around 11 a.m. to get Hardison out of the apartment. Deputies said they attempted to reason with him, but he would not concede.
“We tried to make contact, we were outside the house, called for him, tried to bring him out peacefully to execute the order, but clearly that was not on the cards today,” Allegheny County Sheriff Kevin Kraus said to reporters.
What should have been a simple removal escalated quickly. Hardison fired his guns from the first and second-floor windows and through walls at the officers.
“He had a lot of ammunition in that house, we were all strapped with ammunition, but all had to call for more ammunition,” Kraus said. “We tried to give him every opportunity to come out, but it elevated to the SWAT team’s response.”
At this point, armed officers from the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Pittsburgh police, the FBI, and SWAT crews were all summoned to the standoff.
Multiple factors may have played into why Hardison would not acquiesce to law enforcement’s commands to leave the building.
Some point to a video recorded four years ago, where he was pulled over during a traffic stop and said, “This ain’t their land. This is my land. I’m a Moor.”
“I’m a Moor. I got every right to travel from here to Timbuktu,” he said, CBS News reports.
In the past 15 years, court documents show Hardison getting cited over 30 times for not having the right license or registration. In one video, he tells the police that they have no jurisdiction over him because of his sovereign citizenship.
A sovereign citizen is someone who believes they’re not bound by the law of the country they are in. Hardison believed, as also explained by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, that he was directly descended from Moroccan Africans who made a treaty with the United States that entitled their people to land.
It is in the context of Hardison’s disregard for authority that the showdown happened at the house once owned by his brother.
Sources state he had 15 of his brother’s guns and what seemed to be an unlimited supply of ammunition in his house, using them against the police. Law enforcement locked down the entire neighborhood for hours, ending the dramatic ordeal six hours later after taking Hardison out with “deadly force.”
“It was a pretty lengthy gunbattle,” Kraus said. “We certainly did not expect this, we had no information that this individual was this dangerous.”
His family said their loved one fought so hard against authorities because he believed he owned the house. The house used to belong to his brother, who passed away, but it was sold.
Because he was a sovereign citizen, he did not believe he was bound to the request of the new owners mentioned in the property deed, the private company, or the laws from the government that protect property owners.