White supremacist gang leader escapes from Arkansas jail after using dummy bodies to fool guards
The head of a white supremacist gang charged with attempted murder and selling methamphetamine has escaped from an Arkansas county jail, the United States Marshals Service announced Wednesday.
Wesley Gullett, the president of the New Aryan Empire, was captured in February in a roundup of 54 members of the hate group. Gullet is believed to have escaped with another man, Christopher Sanderson, who is facing a firearms possession charge in an unrelated case.
Their escape from Jefferson County Detention Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, was reported to The Marshals Service around 4.30am on Wednesday, although it is unclear when the two men left, according to The Associated Press.
“We were made aware this morning of the inmates’ escape and are working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to secure their return into custody,” Cody Hiland, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said in a statement released Wednesday.
Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr told local newspaper The Pine Bluff Commercial that the escapees placed “dummy bodies” in their beds to fool guards during a routine bed check. Staffing shortages, delayed renovations to the jail and a lack of funding left the facility vulnerable to an escape, Woods said.
“Gullett and Sanderson should be considered armed and dangerous,” the Marshals Service said.
According to court records, Gullet’s group sold “copious amounts” of methamphetamine around the Arkansas River Valley. Authorities claim leaders in the New Aryan Empire controlled members with threats and violence, and the gang was known to viciously attack anyone suspected of working with police. At the time of Gullet’s arrest, authorities believe the group had about 5,000 members. During arrests, investigators seized more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, 69 firearms and $70,000 in proceeds from drug deals.
The New Aryan Empire began in 1990 in a county jail in Russellville, Arkansas, the New York Times reported. As members were released, it quickly expanded outside of the jail. They collaborated with other white supremacist groups in the drug trade, prosecutors say.
In June 2017, several members held down a man, pressed a heated knife to his face and left him permanently disfigured. According to authorities, the New Aryan Empire’s slogan is “to the dirt,” meaning membership is for life.
Gullett stands accused of planning the attempted murder of Bruce Wayne Hurley, a government informant killed in 2016.
There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Gullet, and an additional $5,000 for information leading to Sanderson’s capture.