By Al Barrus
First, I want to express my sincere condolences for the family, friends and colleagues of Deputy Mason Moore. I deployed to Iraq; I know that law enforcement officers face dangerous situations every day while serving their communities; this loss his family has suffered was horrible and unnecessary.
I wanted to speak out, but not to make excuses for my father and brother. I want to warn others about the larger threat of domestic violence and the danger of anti-government militia, and racist ideals held by Lloyd, which led to this horrific incident. I also want to communicate to other children of those who believe in hateful ideals: we do not have to follow in our parent’s footsteps: we can choose a different path.
There were a series of behaviors that should serve as warning signs. 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 local police officers and an Anchorage women’s shelter, she literally sneaked my four sisters and me out of our home in the middle of the night to get away from him. My half-bothers were not so lucky. We had to leave them behind because they weren’t my mother’s children.
Marshall is now gone, and Jeffery is still in jail for a 2000 incident where he was charged with shooting down a police helicopter in Death Valley, CA. During the 1990s, Lloyd kept my brothers from attending public school, and over time they fell under his bad influence. 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. Statistics tell us that domestic abusers are more likely to engage in other crimes. Someone willing to defy a government holding them accountable for their obligations is someone who doesn’t recognize the role of government in supporting families, or anyone else for that matter. These were warning signs.
As I became an adult, I thought I wanted to know more about my dad and maybe give him an opportunity to apologize to my family and to make amends to us. Instead, I observed someone who believed that people of different races were lesser. He let conspiracy theories over take his mind. He was obsessed with guns, and peddled the idea that the government was the enemy who couldn’t be trusted. He blamed his problems on other people: including social workers, school teachers, government employees, liberals, feminists, the LGBTQ community, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and Jewish people. He believed himself a vigilante, but was really a false patriot. While he was incarcerated and on parole his hateful speech was excused simply as ‘crazy rants.’
A few weeks ago I became more concerned about his online activity, with his posts advocating violence against the state. I worried he was going to act on these beliefs. I contacted Marshall: he said he was living sober and staying busy with his work in residential construction. He clearly relapsed when our dad drove to Montana, falling under his bad influence. I called my Lloyd’s former parole office in Bakersfield, CA, telling them I was worried about his online activity. I wanted someone to check in on him. They apologized, telling me that because he had completed his parole they couldn’t help me.
We need to take the anti-government militia movement and white supremacy threat more seriously.
When I heard about what my dad and brother had done, I was sad but not shocked. I loved my brother, but I knew I couldn’t simply languish in my emotions. I contacted Life After Hate, a nonprofit organization that helps people disengage from hate groups and hateful ideologies. I spoke with Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist – turned peace advocate who co-founded the organization and recently spoke in Montana about the dangers of extremism and hateful beliefs. He had changed, and I choose a different path than my dad. I was inspired to speak out, too.
The system worked for me. After we left Lloyd in 1989, I grew up with the help of the state, living in HUD housing and receiving federal, state and local assistance for low-income children. I graduated high school. I joined the Army and served in Iraq. With the help of the G.I. Bill I earned my B.A and have begun graduate studies. I spent two years abroad as an English teacher. Now I have a good life working in wildlife conservation, and I’m part of a multi-cultural household and family. I choose a different path. It was not easy: I have had my challenges.
Becoming a father has changed my perspective; I know love in a new way. Because of my experiences, I believe that violence that starts at home and hateful beliefs expressed around the kitchen table make their way out the front door and hurt the entire community. I also know that a loving home and working for equality of all people can make a difference. We must see the value of wise government in supporting everyone. I believe that we, as a community and in our personal lives, must take domestic anti-government militia extremism and white supremacy seriously.
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.
Al Barrus is the estranged son of Lloyd Barrus and half brother of Marshall Barrus, both accused of murdering Broadwater County Sheriff Deputy Mason Moore during a late night traffic stop last week.