Expert: Vancouver cop shooter may have been paying debt

James Todd Sapp was charged Tuesday in the shooting of a Vancouver officer

James Sapp, arrested for allegedly shooting a Vancouver police officer seven times, awaits arraignment July 1, 2014. (KOIN 6)
James Sapp, arrested for allegedly shooting a Vancouver police officer seven times, awaits arraignment July 1, 2014. (KOIN 6)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN 6) — A local expert on hate crimes said James Todd Sapp may have been paying a debt for being protected by the Aryan Brotherhood in prison when he shot a Vancouver officer on Monday.

Portland State University Professor Randy Blazak said it’s also possible Sapp wasn’t really even part of the group.

“The Aryan Brotherhood is a national gang. It works like the mafia,” said Blazak.

Sapp, booked on charges of attempted murder, robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm, was arraigned at 9 a.m. on Tuesday in connection with the shooting of Officer Dustin Goudschaal.

Blazak, who researches hate groups, looked over court documents from 2012 when the FBI was investigating Sapp on federal weapons charges that were eventually dismissed.

According to those documents, Sapp told a Clark County Jail deputy in 2008 that “he is a member of the Aryan Brotherhood” and that “he would not be housed with anyone of color.”

The agent went on to say in the documents that Sapp told Gresham police in 2005 that “he is an active member of the Aryan Brotherhood” and that he “kept in touch with his brothers behind bars.”

Most recently, Sapp was released from a Washington prison in 2012 after serving time for drugs.

“There’s this thing called ‘doing the dirt’ while you’re in prison. You’re protected by the brotherhood, but for that, you have to pay a price. It’s called ‘credit.’ Sometimes that price is paid inside, but sometimes it’s paid outside. You have to kill somebody,” said Blazak.

None of the court documents indicated that Sapp has an Aryan Brotherhood tattoo, which Blazak said is typically part of initiation. However, Sapp does have a large tattoo of a swastika and “White Pride” inked across his lower back, according to police.

If Sapp goes back to prison, and he’s not really part of the gang, Blazak said one of two things could happen.

“They’ll either recruit him as one of their own. He made this statement by shooting the police officer. Or he’s going to be victimized by the group. There’s really no pleasant way of saying what will happen,” said Blazak.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists, said they have no record of Sapp as a major player.

“They could just be saying that, but he would be taking his life in his own hands if that’s what he did,” said Blazak. “I say that because the Aryan Brotherhood is one of the gangs that is blood in, blood out.”

According to new court documents, Sapp told jail deputies on Monday that “his life is over.”

Despite whether Sapp is a real member, Blazak said the kind of violence he’s accused of is consistent with the Aryan Brotherhood.

Sapp is next due in court on July 8.

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