WAKEFIELD, MASS. >> An hourslong standoff with a group of heavily armed men that partially shut down Interstate 95 ended today with 11 suspects in custody, Massachusetts state police said.
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 said the interstate is now reopened and the shelter-in-place orders for Wakefield and Reading were lifted.
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, Mass State Police Col. Christopher 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.
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 antigovernment. 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. “As specified multiple times to the police that we are 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 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.”
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 was a part of that.
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.
Mason said the suspects surrendered after police tactical teams used armored vehicles to tighten the perimeter around them.
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.
Police and prosecutors are working to determine what charges the members of the group will face.
The suspects were expected to appear in court in Woburn on Tuesday, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said.