Posted Nov 23, 2011 09:55 pm CST
Responding to alleged attacks that had struck fear into the hearts of residents of pacifist Amish communities in multiple Midwestern states, federal authorities raided the Ohio compound of a breakaway Amish group this morning and arrested seven men.
They are accused of hate crimes in a bizarre series of hair-cutting attacks intended to humiliate and violate the religious principles of Amish residents, reports the Associated Press.
In addition to cutting the hair and beards of male victims and the long hair of female victims, perpetrators allegedly photographed them in a shorn state.
“You’ve got Amish all over the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania and Indiana that are concerned. We’ve received hundreds and hundreds of calls from people living in fear,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla at a news conference today. “They are buying Mace, some are sitting with shotguns, getting locks on their doors because of Sam Mullet.”
Sam Mullet, a leader of the breakaway group who was arrested today along with three sons, told the AP in September that he neither participated in nor prevented the attacks. The attacks reportedly may have been made in response to what the defendants perceived as interference and shabby treatment by other Amish of the members of the community Mullet formed in 1995.
The seven defendants are expected to be arraigned in Youngstown at some point today.
Holmes County Prosecutor Steve Knowling had previously filed similar charges against five of the same defendants in Ohio state court, but said he would step aside and led the feds take the lead in pursuing the case, the AP reports.