Joseph “JJ” Harper, a life-long racist jokingly called “The One Man Klan,” died last week during a lengthy standoff with sheriff’s deputies and a state police SWAT team in rural southern Georgia.
Preliminary findings suggest the 52-year-old Harper died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the end of the 8-hour stand-off, about 50 miles south of Macon, an official of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told Hatewatch today.
Harper was the self-appointed “Imperial Wizard” of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He showed up with a sign calling himself “The One Man Klan” outside the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., in April 2003. He also attended the 2005 murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen, who was found guilty of the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss.
Harper’s death came during a confrontation that began about 7 a.m. on April 15 when Dooly County sheriff’s deputies responded to a residence where Harper lived in Vienna, Ga. Personal property was being removed as part of a divorce decree.
As deputies arrived, Harper was wearing a bullet resistant vest and holding a shotgun along with several holstered handguns, the GBI said in a release. Because of the threat of violence, the deputies and the person picking up the personal property for Harper’s ex-wife left the area.
The deputies contacted Dooly County Sheriff Craig Peavy, who spoke with Harper by telephone before going to the residence in an attempt to de-escalate the situation and retrieve the remaining property pursuant to a court order, the GBI release said.
As the sheriff arrived, Harper came out of the home and “lowered the barrel of the shotgun in the direction of Sheriff Peavy and the deputies,” the statement said. The sheriff and county deputies backed away and requested a SWAT team. Deputies from Crisp, Turner, Lowndes and Tift counties as well as the Georgia State Patrol SWAT team responded to the scene.
“Sheriff Peavy and negotiators spoke with Harper multiple times via telephone in an attempt to reach peaceful resolution,” the GBI release said.
“Harper exited and entered his residence multiple times wearing a bullet resistant vest, gas mask, and other weapons to include a long gun and handguns,” the release said.
At some point, Harper “began to fire multiple rounds at the deputies” and the SWAT team. “At least one round of ammunition was fired by law enforcement officers in response to Harper’s aggressive actions,” the statement said.
As the standoff continued, the SWAT team fired gas canisters into the home. After a gunshot was heard from inside the residence, a robot was deployed and discovered Harper’s body in the living room of the residence.
The GBI is continuing an investigation of the incident.