Wakulla County, FL - Four members of the Rainbow of the Living Light, a group of men, women and children who travel the United States and live off the land, were arrested Monday, March 14 after being caught shoplifting at the Crawfordville Wal-Mart, according to Sheriff David Harvey.
The group has been living in the Apalachicola National Forest where federal officials have been monitoring their presence. They have also been observed attempting to collect donations from local businesses and from residents at highway intersections.
Mickey Evan Russell, 19, Russell Scott Sickler, 45, Juan Ashanti Smith, 20, and Michael Benedict Mark Guard, Jr., 34, were all charged with retail theft in connection with a 3:22 p.m. incident at the store.
A Wal-Mart customer reported observing Sickler walking out of the store pushing a shopping cart full of beer without paying for the merchandise. Store video footage revealed that Sickler had also shoplifted from the store on March 12. The three other suspects were observed removing a total of seven cans of keyboard duster compressed air worth a total value of $59. The beer was valued at $288.
The four men were detained in the parking lot. A total of nine Rainbow of the Living Light members were interviewed in the store parking lot. The group of nine was issued trespass warnings for the Wal-Mart property.
“There are between 150 and 200 members of the group staying in the Apalachicola National Forest,” said Sheriff David Harvey. “They are being monitored by federal law enforcement. Those who weren’t arrested were allowed to return to the forest. When we come in contact with them we check them out to make sure they are not wanted by anyone. We will continue to do so. Many of them are law abiding citizens.”
The Rainbow group generally stays in an area for two or three weeks. Members of the group told law enforcement that they have been active in the Ocala area and hope to attend events in Washington state and Pennsylvania later in the year.
The Rainbow of the Living Light group holds national and Florida gatherings. The Wakulla County group came from the Florida regional gathering for a two to three week stay. This is the third year the group has stayed in the Apalachicola National Forest.
The four men arrested in the Wal-Mart shoplifting case remain in the Wakulla County Jail. Sickler and Guard had bond set at $1,000 and Smith and Russell had bond set at $500.