The Legacy of Race

Police Can Be Targets of Extremists

Kimberly Police Officer Nick O’Rear was killed by a white supremacist in February 2020. (Source: Officer Down Memorial Page)

White supremacist and other extremist groups don’t just seek to infiltrate police departments, they also target police officers for attack.

“The spread of violent white supremacy is a threat to everyone but disproportionately is a threat to Black and brown communities. But it is also a threat, and purposefully underestimating this problem is a threat, to first responders: in this case, to police officers,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, chairman of the subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties.

One of several examples Raskin cited involved the killing of Kimberly police Officer Nick O’Rear in February.

The Anti-Defamation League documented the case, saying Preston Cheyenne Johnson, a white supremacist from Addison, was accused of shooting O’Rear during a police chase that began in Warrior on Feb. 4 because Johnson was driving erratically. Johnson is accused of shooting at officers from his car and striking O’Rear, who was driving the car in front of him, in the head. Johnson fled the scene, according to a preliminary hearing in the case, and was arrested the next day. Police reportedly found an AK-47 and 9mm handgun near Johnson’s abandoned car.

Johnson had an “extensive criminal history” according to the ADL report, had multiple white supremacist symbols tattooed on his body and frequently used neo-Nazi and white supremacist terminology in social media posts.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 95 extremist-police shootouts between 2010 and 2019. “Right-wing extremists accounted for 83% of the incidents, and white supremacists alone were responsible for 51%. Ninety-eight police officers were shot during these 95 incidents; 26 of those shootings were fatal,” the report stated.

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