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Klan Group Co-Opts Sorrow in Shadow of Slain Idaho Police Officer


The death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore has left the north Idaho community stricken with grief, as thousands gathered from all over the country for his funeral on May 9.

Moore, a 16-year veteran of the Coeur d'Alene Police Department, was shot May 4 while performing a traffic stop of Jonathan Daniel Renfro, a 26-year-old Rathdrum man who allegedly opened fire, stole Moore's weapon and fled in his patrol car. Renfro is being held at the Kootenai County Jail, charged with five felonies, including first-degree murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Capitalizing on the sorrow surrounding Moore's death—and drawing on the nationwide tensions over race and community relations with police—an unwelcome but familiar group in north Idaho again made its presence known.

In a leaflet reportedly distributed May 7 in Kootenai and Bonner counties, and bearing the header "Blue Lives Matter," the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan expressed its solidarity with law enforcement in the face of "a criminal element" that is protected by "weak politicians who live in fear of the race baiter, civil rights lawyers, and a Liberal media that makes their living off of other peoples misery and the robbing of municipal coffers [sic]." (See the leaflet by clicking on the image on the right).

Moore's death comes at a time when the phrases "Black Lives Matter" and "Blue Lives Matter" have become shorthand in the ongoing, tense and often violent national debate over how police and their communities interact.

Both phrases have been used in abundance in recent weeks, as protests in Baltimore following the April 19 death of a 25-year-old black man while in police custody turned to rioting and, on May 2, a New York City police officer was shot while approaching a man suspected of concealing a handgun—the third New York City police officer to be killed in the line of duty in the past five months.

Post Falls resident Andrew Martinez found one of the Klan leaflets in front of his house on the morning of May 7, wrapped around a two-month-old copy of a local free newspaper. His neighbor in the quiet, well-cared-for subdivision also woke up to find the same thing on her doorstep.

"I was pretty shocked," Martinez said. "Somebody was going by just chucking them around."

Sheriff's officials in Kootenai and Bonner counties—as well as the Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls and Sandpoint police departments—said they had received no reports of the leaflets. However, Tony Stewart, one of the founding members of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said he saw a copy on May 6 that had come from Sandpoint.

"I don't want to overstate this, but every so often, maybe every couple of months—and there's no large organization here like there was with the Aryan Nation—but there's some individual or individuals that pick an area and they'll drop this information," he said.

The contents of the leaflets, Stewart added, are typically boilerplate. In this case, though, the timing hit close to home.

"Nobody wants that stuff here," Martinez said. "It's just ridiculous that they're using this fallen police officer as a gimmick to recruit people into their organization. I think that's just sad. ...

"The whole region up here ... is totally impacted by this police officer's death. You can feel it everywhere you go in Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, Sandpoint. ... For them to take advantage of a situation like this is just ridiculous."

Stewart agreed.

"I can't get in the minds of those people who do those things, but I can say this: This community, our communities around here, have rallied. It's just remarkable," he said. "They have already I think surpassed $50,000 in funds to support the family. They've had a couple of rallies and I think there's going to be a fundraiser. This community has been just remarkable in its support. It's a very, very sad time but it's also amazing how the community has united."

As they did during the active years of the Aryan Nations in the 1980s and 1990s, when the distribution of racist and politically extreme literature was more common, most north Idahoans see the leaflets for what they are.

"We haven't heard any reports, probably because people just throw them away," said Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Christie Wood, who handles community relations for the department and serves as president of the KCTFHR. "Law enforcement is in no way associated with this group, nor would we ever even consider it."