December 23, 2011 Posted by Daryl Johnson in Extremism-General

WASHINGTON, [PA]—On December 18, 2011, Eli Franklin Myers III shot two East Washington police officers during a routine traffic stop along Interstate highway 70 in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  For those who follow domestic extremist activity, it was a familiar scenario that has played out time and time again on roadways throughout the United States.   One of the officers was lying defenseless on the pavement after suffering a gunshot wound to the thigh when he was shot a second time by Myers in the side of the head.  A second officer, who arrived as backup, was shot in the hand as he took cover from Myers’ deadly rampage. 

Myers fled the scene, retreating to his home in Webster, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, where he engaged officers from Rostraver Township and the Pennsylvania State Police in a 10-hour standoff.  Myers periodically exchanged gunfire with police as they attempted to negotiate his surrender.  He refused their commands and, instead, chose to exit his house and pointed a gun in the direction of police officers who had surrounded his home.  He was killed by a sniper’s bullet. 

Many who knew Myers were reportedly shocked and confused by his violent actions.  According to court records, Myers had no criminal record in Pennsylvania.  Many notorious violent rightwing extremists, such as Timothy McVeigh and Eric Robert Rudolph, also had no prior criminal histories before they carried out their violent attacks.  A review of media reporting shows that neighbors, friends and acquaintances have conflicting views over Myers’ true identity, his personality and character.  Some were perplexed over why he would shoot police officers.  Others didn’t appear surprised given his reclusive and anti-social demeanor within the local community.  And, unfortunately, those affected by this tragedy may never get the answers they truly seek at the conclusion of the investigation.  For them, complete closure may not come.

In order to gain a better understanding of why Eli Myers attacked the police, it is important to examine a wide range of factors that influence a person’s behavior including their social network, current life circumstances (family status, health, financial situation, etc.), belief system (specifically views toward government, our legal system and authority, in general) and traumatic life-altering events, if any.  It is also valuable to know how many stabilizing influences the individual has to keep them from straying too far from their behavioral norms.  As I reviewed media accounts of Myers’ life, I immediately noticed several “red flags.”

First, Myers had been under-employed.  His employment history was described as “spotty at best.”  His financial situation was obvious, given the dilapidated state of his home and other personal property.  A neighbor said that Myers had been living out of his van at one time, but had recently moved back into his parents’ (now deceased) home.  Myers also appears to have had excessive debt.  According to WTAE, in 2002, Citibank sued Myers for $10,000 for not paying back a loan.

In addition to his financial challenges, Myers also had visible health problems as described by friends – having a change in complexion and a recent fall which left him somewhat disabled.  Myers had also experienced three, recent traumatic events in his life within a relatively short time span:  the death of his father in 2009; his mother’s death a few months later; and, then his common-law wife died in 2010.  A culmination of socio-economic pressures most likely weighed heavily on Myers.  People who are financially desperate and experience traumatic life events can be introduced or even lured to extremist ideas as they seek answers to life’s hardships.  Those who ultimately incorporate extremist ideas into their personal belief system are often looking for any justification to blame others.

Second, it appears that Eli Myers had a total disregard for the law as well as government authority, despite having been a part-time police officer for a few years back in the 1970s.  Media reports have not yet elaborated on why Myers left his job as a police officer.  Myers allegedly did not conform to local county ordinances related to maintaining his property.  Despite having been cited and fined by local police earlier this year, he still refused to register his vehicles or clean up his properties.  He did not maintain automobile insurance nor receive the annual vehicle inspection as required by Pennsylvania state law.  According to news reports, Myers was cited 27 times for code violations on a business property he owned in Charleroi.  He reportedly lost that property in a tax sale last year.

Third, Myers appears to have embraced some form of anti-tax sentiment as part of his personal beliefs.  Though, it doesn’t look like Myers was a member of any organized extremist group.  Yet, at a minimum, he had a 20-year history of not paying taxes.  He had 37 tax warrants from the state of Indiana for unpaid taxes between 1992 and 2011.  Furthermore, both of his Pennsylvania businesses were allegedly sold at tax auctions, indicating that Myers most likely was delinquent in paying his property taxes there as well.  It is important to note that the information age provides a virtual platform (i.e. Internet) for extremists to spread their radical belief systems.  A person no longer has to “join” extremist groups or meet face-to-face with their extremist counterparts.  Anyone can be introduced to a wide range of extremist ideology and radical belief systems in the comfort and privacy of their own home.  Further, the Internet enables individuals to self-indoctrinate and radicalize with relative ease, secrecy and anonymity.  It seems that Myers’ view on taxes was not limited to just his financial issues.

Finally, Myers is most known for his obsession with guns – having owned and operated a gun shop in Monessen for many years. He also held a membership at a local gun club.   According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, one local politician, who knew Myers several years ago, commented that Myers possessed “an arsenal of weapons.”  Weapons hoarding can be another indicator of possible extremist beliefs, due to a person's preoccupation with their second amendment rights or infringements thereof.  WTAE reported that neighbors said that Myers was known as “someone who can get you anything you wanted in terms of weapons or ammunition including assault rifles.” WTAE also reported that neighbors described Myers as an “illegal gun runner.” Myers’ disdain for the law not only included his many property disputes, his failure to pay taxes and refusal to register and insure his vehicles, but also his continued operation of a gun shop despite not having a firearms dealer’s license as required by federal law.

Given his apparent disregard for laws and government regulations, it would be interesting to learn more about Myers’ second amendment views, his justification for not paying taxes for so long as well as his opinion of the ATF (which issues federal firearms licenses).  Myers’ gun license lapsed over 15 years ago, yet, since 1995, he reportedly continued operating an “illegal” gun business without a license.  I welcome readers' comments and insights into these matters (see comment box below this article).

To conclude, it is easy to brush off Myers’ failed businesses, multiple tax warrants, civil judgments and code violations as a person in financial distress.  Some may quickly conclude that he had his “back against a wall” or “he was breaking from debt” and just "snapped."  Others may choose to attribute his violent behavior to “mental illness” despite having no corroborating evidence.  Upon closer examination, Myers apparently had enough disposable income which he used to purchase guns, antiques and other collector’s items (which are reportedly littering his residence).  So, the question then becomes:  Why didn’t Myers use some of that money to pay his taxes, civil judgments, traffic fines and other financial obligations?  Perhaps, it wasn’t important to him – or maybe he didn’t think it was legally required.

There is enough evidence to suggest that Eli Myers was likely a tax resister – a person who deliberately avoided paying taxes because they don’t believe it is legally required or necessary.  He probably held antigovernment views (although not very vocal about them).  Why else would a person thumb their nose at government permits, regulations and law enforcement authority?  Myers’ social behavior, life circumstances, likely antigovernment belief system and traumatic life events all played a role in cultivating an extremist-type mindset – an utter disdain for government authority – which was finally unleashed during that fateful traffic stop on December 18, 2011.  Extremists are known for their attack-oriented behavior.  Myers’ actions that night appeared to be just another example of such conduct.

Many are wondering why Myers shot the two police officers.  It may have something to do with Myers’ views concerning his second amendment rights.  He was obviously armed at the time of the traffic stop.  Myers probably didn’t have a permit for the loaded firearm in the car as required by Pennsylvania state law [see 18 Pa.C.S. 6106].  Once he realized the officers were going to impound his vehicle and likely charge him for the weapons violation (and knowing he was operating a gun shop without a federal firearms license), Myers probably knew he was looking at multiple felony charges which, if convicted, could lead to a relinquishing of his gun rights.  This perception may have provided the necessary incentive and justification for Myers to rationalize shooting both officers rather than deal with the consequences of his antigovernment actions.  After all, Richard Poplawski, the white supremacist from Stanton Heights (Pennsylvania), killed three Pittsburgh police officers in April 2009 for similar reasons.  Poplawski believed the police were coming for his guns as a result of a domestic dispute Poplawski had with his mother.  And, think about it, Myers really had nothing more to lose but his Constitutional rights.

In closing, I find it interesting that the president of the gun club to which Myers belonged felt it necessary to explain to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that “though he [Myers] talked politics, he was not ‘rabid or radical’. He wasn’t one of these conspiracy guys.”  But, as we examine Myers’ private life, it becomes very apparent that he was not the law-abiding, level-headed peacemaker that some perceived him to be.  Not all extremists join groups, carry identification cards or espouse crazy conspiracy theories.  A discrete extremist is unpredictable and, on occasion, a dangerous individual.  In addition, it’s often difficult for others to admit that a close friend, family member or neighbor could take their political views too far, or, engage in ideologically-motivated criminal activity to further those beliefs.  It looks like Myers' true identity may very well have been a reclusive antigovernment extremist who had finally had enough with our system of government.  He chose to unleash his anger at two local police officers – the ultimate symbol of law, order and authority in a civilized society – at a time of his choosing when the officers were most vulnerable.  He then made a calculated decision not to surrender to government authority, but rather end his life in a hail of bullets.  Such behavior does not appear to be linked to mental illness, financial distress or common criminal behavior.  Rather, it bears the hallmark of an extremist individual hell-bent on retaliating against his enemies when finally pressed to account for his criminal actions.

5 comments on “A Motive For Eli Myers To Kill [DT Analytics Blog]” »

  1. you can call him what you want…He was a monster! In all of your theory…explain why he not only shot the officer in the groin (obviously knowing he was wearing a vest)…the other officer in the hand…but THEN towered over the fallen officer and shot him in the head???????? TO KILL HIM! The man executed that officer!!! Explain that to me please!! He was a MONSTER!

    Comment by Call him what you want — December 24, 2011 @ 9:39 pm (Reply)

  2. I knew Eli. I was on the PGCA board with him, and spent time with him privately. He was a very gentle person. A little on the extream side of politics, but I have seen worse. He was dying, his heath failing, His wife had died, His mother and father gone. His livly hood was in the van,(books that he sold at gun shows). He did not sell guns, just books. He was afraid that the police were going to steal his books, as some were very valuable. I cannot condone his finial actions, but the writer of this article should have gotten the facts straight, before there anti gun,anti rights,and local grown terrorist rant. He died by suicide by cop. I wish he had acted better, and all my condolences to the police officers family. My own son is a law enforcement officer.

    Comment by answer to call him what you want — August 10, 2012 @ 11:27 am (Reply)

  3. I just heared yesterday about what happen’d and what Eli did,indeed an sad and unbelieveable story!.I feel sorry for the officers family.I knew Eli,like i knew his family.I first met Eli back in the 90’s,during visiting the “Mon-Valley”(i’m from Germany).I knew him as an good person.He wasn’t an monster or an terrorist.Back in 2001,i went to gun shows with him…i never saw him selling guns,just books and some military stuff.
    And if somebody calls him a monster..think about what pushed him so far to do such an terrible thing?
    I remember him as an gentle giant.

    Comment by Andras Habegger — May 23, 2013 @ 5:43 am (Reply)

  4. I can’t call myself a friend of Eli Myers, but I knew of the man, because I had seen him at some gun shows. As another commenter has already stated, Mr. Myers had not been selling guns at those shows, he was selling antique books. I personally bought a pocket knife from the guy; the only “weapon” displayed on his table.

    I could write multiple paragraphs about this, but I will try my best not to go into too much detail.

    Now, this might seem like “blaming the victim”. But the circumstances surrounding the “traffice stop” in Washington, PA are a bit odd. First off, it’s pretty well known that local police generally do not patrol the interstate highways in Pennsylvania. Not saying that they can not. Just that they have a friendly, unwritten policy of leaving interstate highway policing to the Pennsylvania State Police. So for them to pull Eli Myers over on a traffic stop in I-70 is very unusual.

    Next up, yes, Eli Myers was once a police officer in the small town of West Newton, PA. I knew him from those days too. He “seemed” like a nice guy. But if you know the inside politics of West Newton and the wide-spread corruption in the Mon Valley area, then you might also understand know that one of their former Cheifs of Police was gently forced from his position and asked to resign….for helping drug dealers.

    Another point I will make is that police officers and former police officers are the hardest people in the world to arrest. There are plenty of vidoes on YouTube that show “cops acting badly” when they realize they are about to be arrested by other police officers. They are used to be the one wielding the power. Not the one’s being handcuffed. Just saying.

    Next up. What’s the deal with one of the arresting officers being a full time doctor of veternary medicine and a part time cop? I know Washington, PA. There are plenty of able-bodied men and women, some of them just out of the US Armed Forces, that would gladly take a job as a police officer at a small department like that. Again, could be another individual that enjoyed carrying a gun and wearing a badge and telling others wht to do? (Just like Eli Myers.)

    And now finally, do yourselves (plural) a favor and do a web search on East Washington, PA Police. What you will find is that months after the incident, the Chief of Police at that small department was arrested on federal charges of corruption. He bragged to an undercover FBI agent that he was “the best police chief that money could buy”. He is/was accused of running protection for drug dealers, trynig to hire a hitman to kill a former girlfriend, and threatening the life of a city councilman.

    Things just don’t add-up for people that thought they knew Eli Myers. But after looking at the actions of the East Washington, PA police department, there just might have been a whole lot more to the story that we know. (If he was charged so many times with not having a valid inspection, nor valid vehicle owner’s card, or insurance…then why didn’t he act violently toward other police officers at other traffic stops?)

    Comment by Fred Pelligrino — October 8, 2014 @ 11:48 pm (Reply)

  5. This writer is definitely not on point. First, yes he held a strong interest in guns, along with his grandfather, father,brothers and nephews… The guns in his home weren’t all his. Those were in that gun room for decades. They were a family of hunters… Yes he did do gun shows, but sold books. He knew he couldn’t legally be a part of selling guns at the shows. No money ? Yep, he liked to gamble. He was either coming or going that tragic night to the Meadows Casino. Not only was gambling one of his vices, he drank on a daily basis for years. Yes, Eli was as strange as can be, attributing to the fact of a very high IQ. Eli went to Penn State for 4 yrs. he majored in Spanish with the idea of being a translator, possibly in a GOVERNMENT position. The only law that he and his brothers and father hated was taxes, who doesn’t hate taxes. He had no money to pay taxes, fines, to fix his building or keep his vehicles legal . He knew his vehicles wouldn’t pass inspection and had no money to fix them..but, when he did have money, he gambled believing he would hit it big…Eli was not hell bent against our country or govt. He came from a political family. His uncle was Speaker of the house in Pa. He passed in office. His father and numerous uncles served in our military… Where and who was to be his common law wife who died ? He was engaged for 30 yrs. and she is alive and well.. Things gravely got bad for Eli when he lost his mom (who passed first) she was his greatest supporter. She would always try to help him with things, when he asked. His father a short time after passes. Now Eli has lost both of his best friends in life, very hard to deal with..he continues to drink…he truly did have a big heart and was very kind, strange, but kind… Now I think his drinking has deteriorated his health and brain. Color change, retaining so much fluid at one point , he couldn’t walk. Again, no money, no insurance, no health care… I truly know he died suicide by cop. Because he knew that if he went out there and pointed his gun towards them, they would shoot. Remember he too completed the police academy…Now the night in question. I don’t believe Eli was in his right mind. Not mental illness, but illness affecting his brain secondary to what he was dying from.. The officer loosing his life that night and being made to leave his autistic son just kills me… Unfortunately these two officers that night became collateral damage… My heart goes out to these officers families for being made to have to endure 12/19 as a day of hell…

    Comment by Chris myers — August 28, 2016 @ 5:35 am (Reply)

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