Do you know what a “Doomsday Prepper” is? Thanks to the National Geographic Channel, a lot more of us know who they are and what they do. What one of them did was break the law.
Tyler Smith, doomsday prepper and felon
Buckley is in rural Western Washington, not far from the urban center of Tacoma, at the southern end of the Puget Sound. The common wisdom about Western Washington is that we’re all enlightened, urban professionals who drink lattes and read more than the rest of the country. While that may be true in some areas, it’s definitely not what you’ll find when you stray from the I-5 corridor. Rural areas in King, Pierce, Thurston, Jefferson, Kitsap and Snohomish counties do not fit that stereotype.
Tyler Smith lives in Buckley, where the 29-year-old heads up a group called Spartan Survival. Somehow, National Geographic found Smith and put him on their show, “Doomsday Preppers.” On the November 12, 2013 episode, Smith was shown with an array of weapons, some of which he shot on camera. The problem with that being that Smith is a convicted felon, twice over. He’s also a level 1 sex offender. He is not legally allowed to own firearms.
Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies have been watching Smith ever since that episode aired and finally arrested him at his Buckley home on January 15. Charges are expected to be filed this weekend. There’s also the tiny detail of Smith not having registered as a sex offender, which is required by law in Washington state. Even though he is only a level 1 offender (those designated least likely to re-offend) he has to register. Besides the guilty plea to communicating with a minor for immoral purposes — he touched a 14-year-old inappropriately — Smith also pleaded guilty in 2009 to first-degree theft of a motorcycle.
Threatening behavior made neighbors nervous
Then, there are the threats he made on the show. You see, Smith isn’t a prepper so much as an opportunist. He once said of his group:
“We’re not in it to stockpile. We’re in it to take what you have and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. We are your worst nightmare, and we are coming. All your shiny AR’s your high-powered .308 rifles, your 50,000 rounds of ammo are all going to be ours.”
Is that supposed to be the “prepper” version of “all your base belong to us?” Smith also told The Tacoma News Tribune that he has a regional map of places where he thinks he could take supplies by force. So, it’s not so much prepping that his group is doing as it is marauding. Smith also claims to have created body armor that he says is lighter and stronger than any you can buy. He even had a cousin shoot him point-blank while he was wearing it. It only left a bruise, luckily for him.
Between bragging on the show and in the media (he gave an interview to the News Tribune on Nov.8), and all the activity going on at his place, neighbors grew worried. They contacted the Pierce County Sheriff’s office. Spokesman Ed Troyer summed it up:
“What led us to this guy was himself. He put himself on TV and in newspaper articles and he did things that scared the neighbor. Reality TV crashed into reality.”
National Geographic Channel released a statement on Wednesday saying that they were “aware of the arrest” and that they have “decided not to air this episode until all legal matters are sorted out.”
Actual preppers do not accept Smith as one of their own
“Doomsday Preppers” is popular, but not with the really extreme preppers one finds in the hinterlands of the Internet. One of them wrote about Smith a couple of days after the November show and she was not a happy prepper. Daisy Luther had Smith’s number:
“Let’s make one thing clear – Smith is not a prepper. He is not representative of what we do. He’s an embarrassment to the preparedness community. He is a thug, plain and simple. He’s an out-of-shape criminal who is afraid to get caught, so he’s waiting for the breakdown of law and order to commit the crimes he so clearly wishes to perpetrate, without fear of spending time in prison.”
Well, that is a moot point, now. It looks like Smith will be spending time in prison. And, once he gets out, his racket won’t be quite as cool as it seemed before. I’m pretty sure that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office will be keeping an eye on him for the rest of his days. Not only that, but the rest of us who actually prep for survival (instead of show) have a heads up on Smith and his merry band. Oh yes, I’m a prepper, too. I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on camo and dehydrated food, but I have a stash of food, a river behind my house, weapons and other supplies. There are many low-profile preppers in rural Washington. We may not play para-military games and work out zombie apocalypse scenarios for TV but we’re quietly preparing. Tyler Smith, on the other hand, now has to prep behind bars.
Here’s some video of Smith from the show, “Doomsday Preppers”: