On a morning last fall, Patrick Drum sat quietly in his black and white striped uniform and handcuffs as he awaited his fate. The sleeves of his top were short enough to reveal a tattoo reading “Win Some” on his right forearm and one reading “Lose Sum” on the left. From the court’s gallery where dozens of reporters and community members sat, he seemed barely to move as the families of the two men he had killed four months before came forward to speak.
“The only thing I’ll say is I don’t has no sympathy for the man who shot and killed my son,” said Jerry Ray’s father, Paul, his voice breaking. The wife of the other victim, Gary Blanton, said Drum’s followers were harassing her and her family—spitting at them, parking at night outside her home. “Tell your supporters to stop,” she said. “My children and I don’t deserve this… I think we’ve suffered enough.”
Prosecutor Deb Kelly recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders, plus time for burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm. “What Mr. Drum has done diminishes us all,” she said. “There is no room for vigilantism. There is no room for what he has done. And no one in authority will ever tolerate vigilantism. It will be sought out, those who commit it will be sought out. They will be sought—“
Drum interrupted her. “This country was founded on vigilantism,” he said.
Kelly ignored him and continued. “You piece of shit,” someone from the galley called to Drum.
The defense attorney spoke briefly. Drum rose and curtly apologized for the hurt caused to the families, asking his supporters to leave them alone. “As for the men themselves,” he said, speaking of his victims, “actions speak louder than words.”
The judge gave Drum a sentence of life without parole. “See you in hell, fucker,” someone shouted as he departed. “Love you guys,” Drum said to the crowd. “God bless you,” said another.
As far as Drum was concerned, he had been protecting the community’s children when he murdered Paul Ray’s son and Leslie Blanton’s husband. He may have killed two sex offenders in June of that year, but he had set out to kill sixty more.
In the months after the killings, Drum’s case had divided the small community. Both Sequim, where Drum and his victims had lived at the time of the murders, and Port Angeles, an adjacent town where Drum spent most of his life, lie in the rain shadow of Washington’s Olympic Mountains and are relatively small—just 7,000 and 19,000 residents, respectively. Mills were the lifeblood of this area, but many closed during the worst of the recession. A few years ago, Twilight fans flocked to the region on pilgrimages to the nearby city of Forks, the main setting of the fantasy novels and films, but Twilight tourism eventually tapered off. Off the main highways, large houses are mixed in with cabins and shacks. There are horses fenced in on private properties, fields and apple trees, snow-capped mountains and the cool waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Everyone knew about the murders. Many residents showed their support by writing letters and showing up at court. Some said they had been raped and that Drum was their hero. Courtroom spectators would yell things like “Way to go!” during proceedings.
As stories of the murders were posted online, comments from readers around the country poured in. Drum was a star and a hero. Drum had no right to play God. He had watched too much television. How could anyone support a murderer? How could anyone support a sex offender? Where could they send Drum money? More still seemed unsure how to feel: They disliked sex offenders, but didn’t know if murder was the solution.
To those who supported Drum, any ethical objections to murder were outweighed by the need to protect children. Discussing the case online, one reader commented, “If it were my child, I would […] think of [Drum] as a hero…sex offenses can be a life long agony and pain.” Another wrote simply, “Looks like he took out the trash.” A man interviewed on camera outside the Clallam County Courthouse said, “I honestly feel that it was justified.”
In fact, Drum’s crime wasn’t as unusual as it seemed. Between 15 to 20 percent of convicted sex offenders report vigilantism or harassment; According to Professor Jill Levenson of Lynn University in Florida, about one-third of offenders lose their jobs or homes, are harassed, or have property damaged because of their status. In some cases, children grow up to attack those who hurt them when they were young. In 2012, a man from San Jose, California, beat the priest who allegedly raped him and his brother when they were children. In other cases, the attackers have no connection to the offenders, as in 2011 when a St. Louis man approached a 74-year-old neighbor whom he knew was a registered sex offender and asked to borrow sugar. He allegedly attacked the man, who had been charged with sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl in 1991, with a hammer. He later told police that he was “doing God’s work.”