Tattoos tell a tale of intimidation
Experts say head-to-toe work is common to white supremacists
It's the most distinguishing feature of Curtis Allgier, the one that makes him stand out in a crowd.
Allgier's face is heavily covered with tattoos so many that it almost appears from a distance that he's wearing a mesh mask over his pale white skin. And some police agencies say his face is just the start of an extensively tattooed body.
Allgier, a white supremacist, is accused of killing 60-year-old corrections officer Stephen Anderson on Monday inside a medical exam room at University of Utah Hospital's Orthopaedic Center.
Tattoos that cover a person from literally head to toe are a common characteristic of skinheads, white supremacists or Aryan Nation gangs. Although the only one who ever knows exactly what each individual tattoo means is the person who is wearing them, law enforcers say the general purpose for such extensive ink work is intimidation.
"They're sending a message. They want you to know they're hardcore (into their beliefs). They're 100 percent," said Ogden Police Lt. Loring Draper with the Ogden Metro Gang Unit and an expert on white supremacist gangs. "They primarily do it for shock value ... mostly so they can look at people like they're bad or mean."Some tattoos are common among skinheads, such as:
Two lightning bolts or SS bolts like those worn by soldiers in Nazi Germany.
The numbers "14-88," with 14 standing for the 14 words white supremacists use as their oath, and 88, or 8, standing for the eighth letter of the alphabet, "H." Two "Hs" together stand for Heil Hitler.
Swastikas from Nazi Germany.
The number "187," or the California penal code for homicide.
Other common tats among white supremacists include that individual's moniker, where they're from, teardrops and spider webs, skeletons and "memory patches" tattoos in tribute to other fallen gang members.
In some white supremacist gangs, members must earn a tattoo, or "patch," and cannot randomly select a tattoo, Draper said. Two of the largest Aryan culture gangs, Soldiers of Aryan Culture (SAC) and Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW), have special patches for certain accomplishments, he said.
The lightning bolts, for example, are generally for those who cause harm to other people. If the bolts are colored in, it usually signifies the wearer committed a stabbing or very violent crime.
In 2002, Scott Biswell, a SAC leader, was shot and killed by a SWAT team in a Provo motel. Biswell was rumored to be trying to earn the first patch for killing an officer. Biswell had warrants out for his arrest. When the SWAT team entered his motel room, he raised a gun as if he were about to shoot at officers, who then fired.
Although Allgier, 27, has a couple of swastikas and the words "Skin head" tattooed across his forehead, Draper said for the most part and compared to other white supremacists his choice of tattoos defies reason.
"His make no sense to me at all. He's got garbage on his face," Draper said. "I don't know why he did what he did."
A 2001 booking mug showed Allgier had no tattoos on his face. A 2007 mug, however, told a much different story. Many authorities commented that he appeared to have even more tattoos after his arrest Monday compared to the last time they saw him earlier this year.
Allgier has a figure in the shape of a crucifix on one side of his face, the word "fun" on his chin, "property of Jolene" on his forehead and other symbols on his cheeks. He also has what appear to be three initials on the top of his head, which Draper said might be the initials of a gang he tried to start. And to the best of Draper's knowledge, Allgier it still the only member of that gang.
"He's got some weird stuff on there," Draper said.
Furthermore, Draper said the ink work isn't even that good.
"This is like somebody just scribbled on his face," he said. "I don't have a clue why he did that. He obviously doesn't care what people think."
The majority, if not all, of the tattoos collected by white supremacists are done either in prison or in another supremacist's unprofessional home setup. Most legitimate professional tattoo parlors in Salt Lake City have policies against tattooing faces or anything with a hate message, such as swastikas. Many say they don't want to be associated in any way with anything dealing with white supremacist tattoos.
Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said getting a tattoo in prison is common, even though it is against the rules.
Some prisoners will acquire a sharp object and then turn the motor from a casette player into a tool for tattooing. Real ink is never actually used, he said.
Daily checks are made for new tattoos, Ford said. If a new one is found, it is immediately documented and that inmate loses his tape player or whatever was used to make the tat. If he commits a second violation, he could be forced to sit in his cell with no recess time for up to a week.
Ford admitted, however, that getting a tattoo isn't like starting a riot or stabbing someone, so the penalties aren't overly severe.
Although some tattoos are like reading a newspaper into an individual's beliefs, sometimes that also has to be taken with a grain of salt. Members of SAC and SAW aren't above working with Hispanic gang members to purchase drugs in prison, Draper said.
"We do try to control that," Ford said. "They lose privileges."
It's not only white supremacists who get tattoos. Hispanic gang members are often heavily tattooed at the prison, Ford said. Sometimes non-gang members get tattoos in prison, he said. And sometimes just the opposite happens.In 1994, white supremacist leader Troy Kell killed a black inmate at the Corrections Department's Gunnison facility. Kell was put on death row for his crime. Kell is considered to be the "king" among many admiring white supremacists, Ford said. But he doesn't have a single tattoo.
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