BOISE, Idaho — Menacing graffiti. Bullets labeled with threats to Boise Mayor Lauren McLean. Discussions of mass violence. Four firearms, including an assault rifle, and tactical gear. Writings avowing loyalty to a right-wing extremist ideology.
On Monday, Erik K. Ehrlin, 33 — the man prosecutors said was responsible for all of this — was sentenced to 6½ years in prison by a federal judge in Boise. He pleaded guilty to counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and assault on a federal officer in January.
In a sentencing memorandum, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit called Ehrlin, a resident of Greenleaf in Canyon County, a “radicalized extremist.”
Hurwit said Ehrlin “poses a serious risk of violence to those with political viewpoints that differ from his own radicalized beliefs.” Hurwit also accused Ehrlin of possessing items that suggested he wanted to impersonate a police officer, and said he “identifies as a sovereign citizen and does not adhere to federal authority.”
In court, Ehrlin’s attorneys presented lie detector tests and a mental health assessment, which determined that he had “diminished capacity” and suffered from delusions, according to the prosecutor’s memorandum. That assessment was premised on a story Ehrlin told authorities days after his arrest, which claimed he had been blackmailed by police officers into possessing incriminating evidence and acting in a radicalized way, the memorandum said.
Officers find threatening graffiti
According to the sentencing memo, the case against Ehrlin began in the spring of 2021. That’s when Forest Service employees found vandalized signs, with messages stating “Do Not Enter,” along with “SAI,” which they believed stood for “Sovereign Alliance of Idaho.”
The sovereign citizens movement is a right-wing extremist ideology asserting the illegitimacy of government.
Other messages read, “Not from here? Leave or die!” and “Warning(:) Federal Employees Shot on Site,” according to the sentencing memorandum.
A witness reported seeing an individual and graffiti in the area of Mann Creek, an area of Bureau of Reclamation Land north of Weiser with campgrounds overseen by the Payette National Forest. A recently fallen tree had been spray-painted with “SAI” and “Do Not Enter,” the filing said.
A Forest Service special agent located a camp trailer and determined that it was registered to Ehrlin, along with a pickup truck located by Idaho Fish and Game.
Other evidence nearby indicated that Ehrlin had been performing target practice with a “mid to large caliber” firearm, the sentencing memorandum said.
Law enforcement determined that Ehrlin was a felon, having been previously convicted of first degree sexual abuse in Oregon and theft in Wyoming. Federal law prohibits felons from possessing firearms.
‘It’s not loaded’
On April 30, 2021, a Forest Service special agent and a Washington County sheriff’s deputy approached Ehrlin at a campsite in the Upper Mann Creek Recreation Area.
Ehrlin was accompanied by his young son and mother, the filing said. An assault rifle was leaning against a camp chair.
After briefly discussing the graffiti in the area, the Forest Service agent asked to speak to Ehrlin alone, the memorandum said.
Ehrlin denied being “Erik Ehrlin” and said his wallet was in his vehicle when the agent asked for identification. Ehrlin began walking behind his camper, and the special agent followed.
“Ehrlin briefly stepped towards his camper where a rifle was located. However, upon observing the deputy walk around the opposite side of the camper, Ehrlin continued past the rifle,” the memorandum said.
The deputy picked up the rifle and asked if he could “clear” it. Ehrlin responded, “It’s not loaded.”
The deputy removed a loaded magazine from the rifle. There was no round in the chamber.
Ehrlin walked over to his pickup truck and reached in, after which he entered the truck and locked the door. The special agent attempted to open the door, telling him to stop, while Ehrlin “looked directly at (her).”
“Next, Ehrlin accelerated while in reverse, striking (the agent) with his sideview mirror,” the memorandum said.
As Ehrlin attempted to flee in his truck, the agent shot at the right front passenger tire, deflating it. Ehrlin was ordered from his vehicle and arrested at gunpoint, the memorandum said.
Shortly after, he apologized to the agent, saying, “I didn’t mean to hurt you, if I did I’m sorry.”
On Ehrlin’s person, the officers found a real Boise Police Department badge in the pocket of his tactical pants, the memorandum stated. A handgun was also located under the driver’s side floor mat, “directly where Ehrlin appeared to reach before entering the vehicle,” the memo added.
Spray paint and markers were found inside, as was a red-and-blue LED light, handcuffs, a “POLICE” patch and a ballistic vest.
Agents also found a bag with “heavy-duty zip ties, duct tape, rubber gloves, a balaclava face mask, a flashlight, high-capacity magazines,” and a bag of ammunition, the memorandum said.
Much of the ammunition had writing on it, including “Die McLean,” “F*** FEDS” and “F** BLM.”
BLM is an acronym for the Black Lives Matter movement, which led to widespread protests for racial justice in the summer of 2020. It also stands for Bureau of Land Management, a federal land management agency.
Two more guns were found at Ehrlin’s residence, along with a journal that contained a “Sovereign Citizen’s Oath.”
A note in the journal said, “McLean, who’s got your 6?” In military slang, “got your six” means someone is watching your back, according to the American Legion.
“Ehrlin possessed all the items needed to impersonate a police officer, to restrain an individual, and to do serious harm to others, including four firearms, 12 magazines, and spare rounds of ammunition,” the memorandum said.
Notes in Ehrlin’s journal also said “Mask up Idafornia!!” below “Bahhh,” apparent references to COVID-19 health measures.
On an opposing page, he wrote: “If not we, then who? If not when, but now!”
In text-message conversations between Ehrlin and his mother, Ehrlin had written, in October 2020, about Black Lives Matter protesters: “I can’t wait until like five or six of these guys go down to an event like that … and they just start killing a ton of these pieces of s*** in the street firing squad Style.”
‘I won’t let the threats designed to terrify and silence us win’
In an email, McLean told the Idaho Statesman, “I won’t let the threats designed to terrify and silence us win.”
“I will continue to do the job Boiseans elected me to do … Our community is strong, welcoming, committed to each other, and resilient,” she said.
In a February statement, McLean noted that “angry militia-affiliated crowds” were outside her home every Sunday evening in the summer of 2020, and that they returned with “torches and pitchforks” in November.
A security detail was added to City Hall, and McLean noted that she had to travel with the detail most days and limit her time out in public.
“There were threats that went far beyond standing on our front walk,” she said.
Judge orders restitution. Public defender declines comment
Ehrlin’s sentence by U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl included $7,964 in restitution to federal land agencies for property damage, according to the plea agreement. After his prison sentence, he will be on probation for three years, according to a sentencing document.
Judge Skavdahl is visiting from the District of Wyoming, according to a Wednesday news release from Idaho’s U.S. attorney.
Ehrlin’s sentencing was first reported by BoiseDev.
The Idaho Federal Defender Services declined to comment on the case.