POLK CITY, Fla. -- Polk County man who has been described by some as the leader of an antigovernment sovereign citizen group was in jail Monday, charged with armed kidnapping.
But the group says the allegations are not true, that they are being mislabeled, and that the public is being misled.
At the end of a dirt road called Appalachian Trail in Polk City is where you’ll find the property with nearly two dozen people staying at or visiting what some described as a compound.
It’s the headquarters of a group called The Bears Law and Forensic Science Team, which appears on the FBI's domestic terror list.
“As far as them having us on a watch list, I really don't care. And neither do any of the rest of us,” said group spokesman Thomas Nelson.
Nelson says they take issue with those characterizing the group as sovereign citizens.
Yes, they openly carry weapons, but that's to keep away snakes, he says.
And the sandbags around a backyard storage bunker are there to keep what's inside cool and dry.
They're activists, he says.
Although they have no formal legal training, the group, says Nelson, advises people whose families have been investigated or separated by government agencies like CPS.
And that, he suggests, is what's behind last week's arrest of the group's leader, Ronnie Davis.
“You know, you're taking money out of their pockets simply because they make money from taking children. It's, you know, it's definitely something to look at,” said Nelson.
Davis spoke with 10News WTSP exclusively from the Polk County Jail, where he is charged with armed kidnapping and false imprisonment.
“I'm here against my will,” said Davis.
According to the arrest affidavit, a woman named Angela Yeager came to Polk City to learn about the group in July, but was later told she would become Davis's wife.
Yeager claims Davis, "instills fear” in everyone who “does not follow his rules,” and that people are told the only way to leave "is in a 'body bag" or at minimum on "crutches."
Davis claims they have video showing Yeager was free to come and go when she pleased.
“I would like a formal inquiry and investigation done into my case. To validate my name,” said Davis, “Because Angela Yeager lied.”
Yeager told investigators she was eventually able to “escape” the residence around Oct. 24 or 25, but that she still fears for her safety.
From behind bars, Davis denies all of it, telling 10News, “More than 30 people saw her come in and out of the house and leave on her own volition.”
His supporters say Davis is the one in danger.
“Honestly, I expect them one day to try and kill him,” said Nelson.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office says it’s familiar with the group and has had no trouble with them in the past.
But the allegations against Davis, they say, warrant further investigation.
On Monday, Davis was still being held without bond at the Polk County Jail.