East Memphis squatters part of larger extremist problem - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

East Memphis squatters part of larger extremist problem

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

UPDATE: Shelby County Sheriff deputies pull over white Jaguar believed to be owned by Tabitha Gentry just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday and arrest two people.

The Jaguar was seen leaving the Shady Grove estate and after a short chase the car was pulled over by deputies at the intersection of Shady Grove and Poplar Avenue.

Shelby County Sheriff spokesman Chip Washington says mansion squatter Tabitha Gentry was arrested, charged with burglary.

According to FOX13 reporter Matt Gerien, Tabitha Gentry was driving white Jaguar that was stopped by Shelby County Sheriff deputies after short chase down Shady Grove. Stopped at Poplar Avenue. A 13-year-old girl was also inside car.

This was a sheriff's operation, spokesman Chip Washington said. Sheriff's office received complaint made by a grandparent of one of the children inside the mansion and they moved forward.

Less than five minutes after Washington said a warrant to get inside the mansion was signed Thursday evening by a judge, a heavily armed Shelby Co SWAT team with assault rifles broke through Shady Grove mansion gate with an armed vehicle.

It is unclear how many people are inside the mansion.


It's been more than a day since Tabitha Gentry, a proclaimed Moorish National, and her six children moved into a $2.7 million home in the 600 block of Shady Grove in Memphis, claiming to have the paperwork which allows her to live there.

MORE: Anti-government squatters claim house in East Memphis

"You simply cannot go out, seize houses that are not yours, and produce fake documents and expect to remain there, you will go to prison," explains Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Potok tracks extremist groups in the United States. Gentry is following a growing resurgence of people who don't want to abide government law. He says Moors consider themselves original inhabitants in the country. But some, like Gentry, are also following the doctrine of sovereign citizens.

The bank on the foreclosed mansion told the mother and her children to leave by 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

"It seems to me that these people would have been moved out of the house several days ago because I'm not aware of any kind of legal precedent for them to be in the house," said Rodney Baber, neighbor.

The Mid-South is very familiar with the sovereign citizens. In 2010, Jerry Cain and his son Joe killed West Memphis, Ark., police officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans during a traffic stop. The Cains claimed they didn't need identification and didn't follow the law.

"The laws of the state, nation apply to everybody who's in that nation and state," says law professor and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

Mulroy says sovereign citizens and Moorish Nationals can't hide behind an organization in the United States and think they are above the law.

"At the end of the day they have the same legal obligations as you or I or anybody else around here. That's just the simple truth of the matter," Commissioner Mulroy said.

Paudert, a former police chief for West Memphis, is an expert on sovereign citizens.

"I think they should be concerned, until that's resolved we don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I don't think the sovereigns generally pose a threat to the ordinary citizen but they certainly pose a serious threat to law enforcement and are a danger to law enforcement."

Potok says some Moors or sovereign citizens have become very knowledgeable about the law, especially when it comes to creating fake documents to be able to claim ownership of a home.

"Many police officers and other law enforcement officers are quite confused by all the paperwork, of course," Potok said. "That is what these people have going for them. Some of the documents they produce actually look legal, although when you read into them they are really gobble-dee-gook."

Paudert said says the Moors often try to use the civil court system to their advantage. Gentry filed bogus paperwork with Shelby County claiming the property at 600 Shady Grove is hers.

"They are well known for their schemes in taking over foreclosed homes from banks and going in and filing paperwork and having these houses transferred over to their name," Paudert said.

Potok admits the movement is growing.

"There are probably about 300,000 people involved in the sovereign movement, probably about a third of that, 100,000 or so, who are really serious about (it) and another 200,000 or so who are essentially dabbling," he said.

Moors are typically not violent, just deceitful like Gentry, Potok added.

"What these people are claiming is hogwash, it's baloney 100 percent from A to Z," he added.

As a Horn Lake, Miss., High School basketball player and honor student, family members admit they were once envious of Gentry. But they are alleging it's not her brains but her heart that's led her to pledge allegiance to the Moorish National Movement and the man she loves.

The Moors have been around since the 1913, with several varying sects. But the movement started gaining traction again in 2009. Two of the main reasons for the increase in growth are the election of President Barack Obama and the shaky economy.

Family members allege since meeting Darrin Fleming, it's Gentry's devotion to the man and the cause he introduced her to that propelled her into a potentially perilous situation.

Inside the multi million-dollar East Memphis mansion that's become Gentry's palatial fortress of defiance, the cell phone traffic was at a fever pitch. Worried family members were trying to persuade her to exit the mansion she and her six children, ranging in age from 11 years to 14 months, have occupied as squatters under the banner of the Moorish National Movement.

"I'm worried because I know what she's doing has got to be wrong," Trenisha Gentry, cousin. "I'm worried that something's going to happen to her."

Gentry's determined occupation would appear to be part of a total metamorphosis in the personality of the 32-year old Mississippi woman. A check of her past indicates she was an athletic and smart student at Horn Lake High School, where she played basketball and earned academic achievement as well.

"Very smart. They said she was on the dean's list at school," Trenisha said. "She never went without making the honor roll or principal's list."

But she said her cousin's life took a sharp turn toward the radical when she met and fell in love with Fleming. He introduced her to the Moorish National Movement, culminating in her joining the organization in December 2011 and taking the name Abka Re Bey. However, changing her name was just part of the change in attitude and appearance.

"Her appearance, for one," Trenisha said. "She has never had braids and she was never part of no Moorish Nation or something like that. Ever since she met him she's changed. She really has. We noticed she started having more things like she's got a huge truck, an Excursion.

In communications with her family much of the day, Gentry insists she's staying inside the home she is calling her own. But, family members fear with each passing day the odds of a non-peaceful ending grow bigger for Gentry and her children.

Police should be prepared if they confront Gentry, Paudert advised.

Tabitha Gentry could find herself in more trouble after failing to appear in November 2012 to answer to allegations she attempted to run over two Memphis policemen after a traffic stop. That case could be headed toward a Shelby County grand jury for indictment.

"I'd like to know how they can still, a family can just move into a house in our neighborhood and just squat and live out of the house without the city police or somebody coming to take them out of the house," Baber questioned. "It just doesn't seem to be the right thing to be going on."

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