Denver cop with tattoo resembling militia group logo killed tribal citizen in 2015

Officer Michael Traudt says he is not a member of the Three Percenters.

 

Westword, a Denver weekly, is reporting that Denver police officer Michael Traudt, who shot and killed a Rosebud Sioux tribal citizen in 2015, has a tattoo resembling an anti-government militia group logo, the Three Percenters, on the back of his hand.

As High Country News previously reported, local Three Percenter groups operate across the country but do not rely on centralized leadership. The national website for Three Percenters says becoming a member is “more of a way of life, rather than a club to join.” The group’s name comes from a story that only three percent of Americans from the 13 colonies rebelled against the British. Group members similarly see themselves against federal overreach. According to Westword, Traudt denied being a part of any Three Percent groups but confirmed in a statement to the paper that the same story “is central” to his tattoo.

A tattoo matching the anti-government militia group the Three Percenters is seen here on police officer Michael Truadt’s hand.

There are four different Three Percent groups currently active in Colorado, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading civil rights organization that monitors hate groups and anti-government extremism. Nationwide, SPLC identified 689 active anti-government groups in 2017.

Though they reject connotations with white supremacy, racism and violence, armed Three Percenters showed up at the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally in 2017 where a white supremacist killed a protester and neo-Nazis marched. They also appeared at the ‘anti-Sharia law’ rally on the capitol steps in Denver 2017, joined the Bundy standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014 and the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy in Oregon.

In a written statement provided to Westword by the Denver Police Department, Traudt wrote, “I have never been associated with that group, nor do I plan to [be]. I am an American and fully support this country and its free government. I have spent my entire adult life in service to this country and my community.”

In 2015, Truadt shot and killed Rosebud Sioux tribal member Paul Castaway but was never prosecuted or disciplined.

The incident galvanized Denver's Indigenous community and highlighted grim, national statistics that Native Americans were the racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement. According to data collected by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Native Americans comprised only 1% of the population but made up nearly 2% of police killings.

On the day Paul Castaway was killed, Denver police argued that Castaway, who had battled mental illness and addiction, got “dangerously close” to Truadt and his partner with a knife. Only minutes before, Castaway’s mother, Lynn Eagle Feather, had called police for help after an altercation. In 2015 she recounted the incident to Al Jazeera America “I told [the police] that my son was mentally ill. I tell them that every time I call … I just asked for help. Instead they killed my son.” Surveillance video shows Castaway approach the officers holding the knife to his own throat before being shot twice by Truadt.

Westword reports that Truadt remains “in good standing” with the Denver police.

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and associate editor of the High Country News tribal affairs desk. Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.  

High Country News Classifieds
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • SONORAN INSTITUTE, CEO
    Chief Executive Officer Tucson, Arizona ABOUT SONORAN INSTITUTE Since 1990, the Sonoran Institute has brought together diverse interests to successfully forge effective and enduring conservation...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...