Last week five Dallas cops were killed by Micah Xavier Johnson, a Black man who was allegedly motivated to take such drastic action after continually watching the US legal system refuse to hold killer cops to account. Naturally, bootlickers across the globe are unquestioningly celebrating the slain officers as heroes, innocents, and protectors. But what if one of those dead cops was a white supremacist--is he still a hero? And I don't mean a white supremacist in the sense that all cops are enforcers of a classist white supremacist order, which they are. No, I mean the more common use of the term. The one we associate with Klansmen, neo-Nazis, Skinheads, and your average Brownshirt wannabe.
Meet Lorne Ahrens.
Ahrens was one of the five Dallas cops killed last week. While mainstream media presented him as a family man, gushed over his imposing size, his sense of humor, and otherwise went to great lengths to humanize and memorialize him as a hero, a band of international Internet sleuths came together to research something the press failed to notice: Ahrens' affinity for imagery associated with white supremacists. Right in one of the main pictures journalists and editors were sharing with stories about Ahrens, is an Iron Cross tattooed on his finger. With this tipping them off, the Internet sleuths jumped into action and quickly turned up more evidence of Ahrens' white supremacist leanings.
A few friends and acquaintances of mine did the legwork and discovered that slain Dallas police officer Lorne Ahrens was a proud, open white supremacist. His ring finger bore an Iron Cross tattoo, his Facebook cover photo was a massive Thor's Hammer symbol, and his left arm was emblazoned with a "crusaders' shield," common to those right-wing Christians who believe that Christianity is engaged in a centuries-long war with Islam. His Facebook likes included pages which bore similar iconography--more Iron Crosses and a Confederate flag or two.
Taken in isolation, each of Ahrens' choices of imagery and his Facebook "likes" might be explainable. Taken in context, the band of Internet sleuths' conclusion that "Ahrens was a proud, open white supremacist," is hard to deny. Let's look it over.
First, the Iron Cross. In spite of its use by the Third Reich, it isn't an inherently a racist image. It's popular amongst bikers, skaters, and a host of other groups in the United States. On the other hand, it remains in the Anti-Defamation League's Hate Symbols Database and prevalent amongst white supremacists. So far there are no indications Ahrens was a biker or skateboarder.
Thor's Hammer (Mjölnir) is in a similar boat as the Iron Cross as far as it not being an inherently racist symbol and existing in the ADL's Hate Symbols Database. Unlike the Iron Cross, Mjölnir imagery is also used by Asatrúers--a Neopagan religious group. Regrettably, Asatrú beliefs also appeal to white supremacists, especially in prisons, as they see it as more purely white than Christianity. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates as many as 15 percent of its adherents "follow an overtly racist version of the theology." Indeed, shortly after tweeting the meme about Ahrens I received a message from a proud white supremacist Asatrúer on Facebook. His profile includes the introduction, "14/88 soldier for life," a common pairing of two white supremacist numerical symbols, and a few pictures down his wall he's holding a hammer with the post, "My god carries a hammer,your God was nailed to a cross.any question? Hail odin,balder,frey,and thor". His message to me read, "Your a whigger and your kid is going to have n***er babies.hang yourself". (That's his punctuation/spacing/capitalization/spelling, and of course he didn't edit the n-word.) So, while by no means am I suggesting Asatrúers are all, or even mostly racist, let's not pretend there's no connection. It took me one tweet to find them. Or for them to find me, as it were.
Given his work in law enforcement and the ties between Asatrú and prisoners, it's hard to believe Ahrens' embrace of the Mjölnir was an innocent one. Beyond that, it appears he took the image from a t-shirt for sale that's advertised with the not-so-subtle dog whistle to white supremacists: "'Nordic Pride' Shirt! Real Vikings will know what this means!" I'm no Viking, but I'm pretty sure I know what they mean.
Next, the Crusaders' Shield tattoo. Again, by itself this might just be the mark of a hyper-masculine Christian, who believes his faith shields him from evil in some sort of ongoing biblical conflict. In the context of someone who publicly follows a range of Islamophobic Facebook groups and has an affinity for other white supremacist iconography, it becomes more damning. It also contradicts the argument that he picked the Mjölnir for his Facebook cover photo due to Asatrú religious beliefs, since it indicates Ahrens' Christian faith. His funeral service is being held at a Baptist church as well.
Then there's Ahrens' work history. Before becoming a police officer in Dallas in 2002, Ahrens worked as a technician with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. The same LASD that has a history of white supremacist gangs operating within the Department. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the primary gangs during Ahrens' time with the LASD was known as the Lynwood Vikings. And while these white supremacist gangs represent an ongoing issue (or feature) in Los Angeles, there's no doubt the Vikings and Grim Reapers--who were based out of one of the places Ahrens worked, Lennox Station--were active and prevalent over the years he was affiliated with the LASD (1991-2002). Add to all of this the fact modern policing was born at the intersections of racial and class oppression, the long history of white supremacist ties to police departments, numerous recent incidents involving white supremacist police officers (there's a good partial list here), the FBI report warning that white supremacists have been infiltrating police departments, and a pretty clear picture begins to emerge.
Is all of that convincing beyond a reasonable doubt, probably not. Though it was enough evidence for at least one white supremacist blog to claim Ahrens as their own. Altogether, there seems to be a preponderance of the evidence for one to conclude Ahrens had some pretty well-developed white supremacist leanings, and may have been a poorly disguised "ghost skin;" which the aforementioned FBI report described as, "those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes."
So, is he still a hero? He never was to me, but this should raise some serious questions for media and all you "patriots" out there continuing to exalt him as one. It also underscores the logic behind Micah Johnson's motives--assuming we believe what's been reported of them to be true. In a year that's seen nearly 200 Black people killed by police already, and when none of the officers are likely to ever be charged with a crime for doing so, Micah Johnson killed five police officers. And one of them was likely a full blown white supremacist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, if someone wants to target white supremacists, starting with cops is a good bet.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking. How dare I sully Ahrens' good name after he's dead. And to that I'd say if he was affiliated with white supremacy as he appears to be, his name was never good in the first place.
I know what a lot of other people are thinking. Why shouldn't I sully his name; after all, journalists routinely drag the names of Black victims of police brutality through the mud. I get it, but honestly dislike that comparison. White supremacists are hateful. They want me dead or out of what they believe to be their country, along with every other Jew, Black person, person of color, LGBTQ person, and anyone else they don't deem pure (not mutually exclusive categories). A white supremacist cop, handed a badge and a gun and empowered to enforce our already racialized, classist, ableist laws, is a clear and present danger. Or in this case, was. Unlike someone who chooses to be a white supremacist, criminal records--the typical subject raised by media in efforts to dehumanize victims of police violence--stem from a lot of things; not the least of which being the racialized legacy of policing, housing, access to employment, loans, and education, the racialized nature of the war on drugs, the cyclical nature of poverty, recidivism, and a host of other things often outside one's individual control. Being a white supremacist simply isn't comparable. And it's certainly far worse than selling CD's, cigarettes, playing in a park, legally carrying a firearm, or the myriad of other police killings of Black people many whites find frighteningly easy to justify.