By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
The son of the accused killer of a Broadwater County sheriff’s deputy said the racist and extremist views of his father and half-brother had been simmering for years, starting with signs of violence and domestic abuse before escalating to threats against state authorities.
In a letter sent to the Montana Human Rights Network on Wednesday and shared with the Missoula Current, Al Barrus, the estranged son of Lloyd Barrus and half-brother to Marshall Barrus, said his father’s anti-government views built to a crescendo last week, leading them to gun down Deputy Mason Moore during a nighttime traffic stop.
“There were a series of behaviors that should serve as warning signs,” Al said in his letter. “Lloyd was a domestic abuser. I thank God every day for my mother’s strength and courage to leave Lloyd in Anchorage in 1989.”
With the help of police officers and a women’s shelter, Al said his mother snuck away with him and his four sisters in the middle of the night to escape the abusive Lloyd. However, his half-brothers, including Marshall and Jeffery, were not so lucky, since they were not his mother’s children.
Marshall was killed by Montana police officers shortly after murdering Moore last week while Jeffery is in prison for a 2000 incident, during which he shot down a police helicopter in California.
“During the 1990s, Lloyd kept my brothers from attending public school, and over time they fell under his bad influence,” Al said. “My dad did not pay child support to us after we left. He evaded the state’s attempts to hold him accountable for his parenting responsibilities.”
Al said his father subscribed to right-wing conspiracy theories and became obsessed with guns. He blamed his problems on a wide range of groups, including liberals, feminists, gays and minority groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Muslims.
He also had a penchant for Nazi Germany and other racist views.
“He peddled the idea that the government was the enemy who couldn’t be trusted,” Al said. “He believed himself a vigilante, but he was really a false patriot.”
Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said Al reached out to her organization after it brought Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi skinhead, to the state to speak about the dangers of racism and other radical far-right views.
Al, who contacted Picciolini after seeing similarities in his own situation, has apologized for the actions of his father and stepbrother, and looks to warn others about the simmering dangers held by the radical fringe.
“It’s a reminder that this is a dangerous movement,” said Rivas. “During the Bundy standoff, multiple folks from Montana and Oregon turned out to be major players. The Oath Keepers are related as well. It’s part of this movement.”
Last year, along with images of Nazi Germany, Lloyd posted an image of the armed Oath Keepers standing around a Vietnam-era helicopter. It’s currently unknown if Lloyd was a member of the group, though his Facebook postings run to the right and include “The Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto,” photos of armed men, and praise for President Donald Trump.
Rivas said the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the anti-government movement, has reported a national decrease among militias and so-called patriot groups, with Montana being the only exception.
“The only place where that wasn’t the case was in Montana,” Rivas said. “While the white supremacist movement is incredibly concerning to me, in some ways – in terms of violence – I have major concerns about the anti-government and militia movement.”
Al said he became more concerned about his father’s online actions a few weeks ago as his postings threatening violence against the state began to increase. Al called his half-brother, Marshall, who was attempting to stay sober and work.
Al said his brother relapsed when Lloyd drove to Montana.
“We need to take the anti-government militia movement and white supremacy threat more seriously,” Al said. “The popularity of these movements right now, like the white supremacist alt-right, is a serious concern. These hateful ideas can quickly lead to violence. I hope I can bring this to attention in some little way.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org