Last Modified November 8, 1999
The Shadows of Waco:
The Tactics and Dynamics of Militia Confrontations
A Militia Watchdog Special Report by Mark Pitcavage, Ph.D. This report may not be copied or duplicated without the permission of the author.
Introduction: A Standoff in Arizona
she saw the deputies, Mary Elizabeth Schipke knew trouble was coming.
She grabbed her 17-month old daughter, Amara Venus, and ran into her
house trailer. The Pima County
deputies and the Child Protective Services agent they were escorting found that
Schipke refused to open her locked door. Eventually,
a deputy entered the trailer through a window to discover that Schipke had
locked herself in a back bedroom. Forcing
the door open, the officers at last confronted Schipkeonly to discover that
she was pointing a pistol at them.[i]
slowly backed out of the trailer.
was going through Schipkes mind is hard to tell, because the woman had a
pattern of erratic behavior. Schipke
lived in a world of conspiracies and plots, many of them directed at her.
Her sense of paranoia was heightened by an extended custody battle
surrounding her son Kitt, a battle that Schipke lost.
In 1994, a local newspaper reported that she had become convinced that a
local election had been tampered with because her candidate was stuck with
thirteenth place on the general election ballot.
Schipke, a triskaidekaphobe (someone afraid of the number thirteen),
believed it was a plot.
1998, Schipke described herself as a severely physically disabled single
mother, ostensibly as a result of silicone breast implants and forced
medical experimentation at Tucson Medical Center Hospital. Her family, she said, were victims of severe government
brutally physically tortured, mentally terrorized, kidnapped, falsely
arrested, viciously beaten, retaliated against, denied justice
corrupt employees of the state of Arizona.
She claimed Kitts father was a drug dealer who had raped her, that
Kitt had perhaps been sold on the baby meat market. She herself had lost her million dollar inheritance
because she was too sick to protect herself.
Schipke founded the Parents Council for Family Rights and became
active in a growing movement directed against child protective services
agencies, a movement consisting largely of anti-government extremists upset at
intrusions by the government into the family household.
despite her hatred of CPS, Schipke wrote them a letter claiming that she and
Amara were living in filth because CPS had not assisted them.
This prompted CPS to investigate. On
November 2, 1998, they tried to visit Schipke, but she refused to let them
enter. They returned the following
Friday with sheriffs deputies to assist them.
Schipke met them with a gun, the deputies radioed the department, which sent
officers out to the neighborhood, a largely rural area on the county line.
The department set up a command center about a half-mile away. In the
meantime, Schipke was busy as well. She
was busy making phone calls to various militia and extremist groups.
SWAT negotiators established phone communications with Schipke that night, law
enforcement officers found themselves besieged with phone calls.
Militia members and anti-government extremists demanded that authorities
leave Schipke alone and threatened them with violence.
Many calls came from out-of-state. The
department became so concerned that it drastically upgraded the security of its
command post. Militia members did
more than simply telephone, however; they also showed up at the standoff.
Some circled the area in vehicles sporting militia flags; others hung
around the command center. At least one militia member videotaped police activity.
When a police helicopter flew by, flares were shot into the air (although
it is not known who shot the flares). According
to a Sheriffs Department spokesperson, many of the militia members were
verbally threatening. This is
going to be Ruby Ridge all over again, one of them was reported as saying.
Others stated, Were with the militia, are you scared yet?
on Saturday morning, before tensions could escalate further, SWAT officers
outside the trailer eventually persuaded Schipke to let two officers into the
trailer. After several minutes of
conversation, in which Schipke appeared agitated and uncooperative, the
officers, noting that her gun was holstered, successfully seized and restrained
her, ending the standoff. Amara,
unharmed, was turned over to Child Protective Services, while Schipke was
charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer and one count
of endangerment. She was also
ordered to have a mental health evaluation.
Pima County Sheriffs Department was lucky; the extremists who had intervened
in the standoff situation didnt do anything more than to make vague threats
and efforts at intimidation. But
had tensions been higher, individuals on either side less cautious, or had a
mistake been made, the results could have been tragic.
When an armed party inserts itself suddenly and unexpectedly into an
already charged and precarious situation, the chances of intentional or
unintentional violence escalate dramatically.
is most important to understand, though, is that this Arizona standoff involving
militia groups is not an isolated event. On the contrary, it is a phenomenon associated with the
militia movement that has occurred numerous times across the country.
The militia movement, which arose after deadly standoffs at Ruby Ridge,
Idaho, in 1992, and Waco, Texas, in 1993, was created in part to confront
federal and local governments. Its
ideology, too, reinforces the notion of confrontations with law enforcement.
unheralded by either the media or law enforcement, militia-led confrontations
with law enforcement pose a threat to public safety, especially for unsuspecting
public officials or law enforcement officers suddenly facing such situations.
We were all ready and we were all armed, stated a Tennessee
militiawoman in 1995 who had hurried down to Alabama when she heard that a
militia leader there might in trouble with the law.
If they had drawn their guns on me or my friends, or drawn their guns
on my friends property, there would have been a shootout.
It is exactly these situations that militia confrontations run the risk
report examines the phenomenon of what are herein termed militia
confrontations may be defined as events in which militia groups learn about and
insert themselves into confrontational situations between citizens and the
government in order to force the government to back down. Militia confrontations should be distinguished
from other standoff situations involving right-wing extremists. For instance, in 1996 a standoff took place in eastern
Montana between federal authorities and an extremist group known as the Montana
Freemen. Similarly, in 1997 a
standoff took place in west Texas between state authorities and a group calling
itself the Republic of Texas. In
both these circumstances, militia members attempted to come to the rescue of the
besieged groups. Such militia
rescue attempts are related to militia confrontations, but are generally not
discussed here, because the dynamics are different.
In both of the above extremist standoffs, for instance, the besieged
individuals were the subjects of extensive investigations and of civil and
criminal warrants. The
existence and nature of the groups were well-publicized by the media.
Authorities were well aware of the nature of the groups and the level of
outside sympathy for the groups. When
the standoffs began, authorities understood that attempts would be made from
outsiders to come to the aid of the besieged extremists, and planned
a typical militia confrontation, however, the individual or individuals are not
leaders of any notable groups, nor have they usually engaged in what might be
described as a pattern of serious or organized criminal activity.
Instead, they are more likely to be an angry parent or a desperate
landowner. Sometimes, in fact, they
will not themselves be members of any extremist group, but will simply be
targeted by such groups as a VOG, or victim of government.
This fact makes it more difficult for effective criminal intelligence in
identifying potential confrontation situations.
It also makes it more likely that authorities could suddenly find
themselves engaged in such a confrontation.
report is designed to increase understanding of the militia confrontation
phenomenon. It contains a detailed
description of the dynamics of militia confrontations.
This description is illustrated by numerous examples.
The report further includes, as appendices, four case studies of militia
confrontations in order to provide extended examples and analyses of this
phenomenon. Lastly, it lists several considerations to help authorities
better identify the potential for militia confrontations and to deal with them
if they do occur. As a whole, this
report provides a detailed examination of militia confrontations that will
enable authorities to better deal with these potentially dangerous situations.
The Dynamics of Militia Confrontations
there are many variations, militia confrontations tend to follow certain
patterns, which allow a better understanding of how and why they occur.
There are two general types of militia confrontations, the sudden and the
long-term, but both types generally follow a five-step dynamic:
the victim of government
support/Getting the word out
at the scene
Identifying the Victim
first step towards a militia confrontation involves the identification of a
perceived victim. The militia
movement, though it often engages in aggressive rhetoric, as well as illegal
activities, conceives itself to be essentially a defensive force. It is much easier for militia leaders to mobilize followers
to support what is alleged to be an effort to aid a person in distress than to
mobilize them for an overtly aggressive act.
the alleged victim (herein simply called victim) is not an actual member
of a militia group, but may well have similar views and opinions.
The victim may be a friend or associate of militia members or of members
of other patriot groups. This
seems to be true most often when the issue is a drawn-out issue such as a
foreclosure, in which long periods of time are available for the victim to
communicate his or her problems and frustrations to friends and associates.
The result is that a general awareness of the victims predicament is
generated among extremist groups in the area, and they may eventually be
persuaded to mobilize to help. These
are also the circumstances in which law enforcement has the best chance of
learning about such situations and anticipating possible confrontations.
example involves a soybean farmer in East Arkansas named David Hooker, who ran
into problems in the 1990s repaying a $400,000 loan from a Minnesota-based bank.
Hooker then adopted common law tactics, claiming that the loan
never occurred and that the bank wasnt even allowed to do business in
Arkansas. He used similar tactics
with a company from whom he purchased farm equipment.
The bank was not impressed and took actions to repossess the land.
Hookers next tactic, in August 1997, was to hold what was billed as a
militia rally on his farm, inviting people to learn about his situation in
an attempt to drum up support. They
are trying to steal my rights by stealing peoples property, he told his
audience, Its time for people to stand up and make these people stop what
of the attendees at the meeting was Drew Rayner, head of the North Mississippi
Militia, and, significantly, an advocate of militia confrontations.
It wasnt that far from Ocean City, Mississippi, to Palestine,
Arkansas, so Rayner could easily make the journey.
I could have been at home playing with my grandbabies, he told a
reporter from Little Rock, But I heard about this on the Internet and got
phone calls about it and I thought Id come up here and show my support.
Another attendee was Bill Cockrell, who had previously been the
beneficiary of a militia confrontation led by Rayner.[iv]
the end, though there was much talk about banking fraud, no actual confrontation
developed. Hookers farm was
eventually seized and sold. Many
potential confrontations never develop beyond the first or second stages, as not
enough support is mobilized.[v]
Hooker situation, well known to local authorities, developed over a period of
years, punctuated by Hookers various lawsuits and appeals.
However, a more common event is when victim status is suddenly
precipitated. In such cases,
local authorities are often unaware that the person or persons they are about to
be involved with could possibly precipitate some sort of confrontation.
Sudden confrontations are most likely to develop due to a raid by law
enforcement officers or some other unexpected appearance by such officers.
The subject of the raid or visit may panicespecially if the subject
has actually broken the lawand begin calling for help. Often, such actions will be unknown to law enforcement
officers attempting to enter the residence.
example of a precipitous confrontation occurred in Parma, Ohio, in 1995.
Although some particulars of the incident are unclear, it appears that a
militia member named Andrew Starr admitted to ATF agents that he and another
militia member or sympathizer named Mathew Stedman had conspired to manufacture
illegal firearms. Consequently ATF
agents and Parma Police Department officers went to Stedmans residence (his
parents house) on June 23, 1995, and asked if they could search the house. Stedman replied that he had to restrain his dogs first, then
slammed the door on the officers.[vi]
officers called for backup, while some went to get a search warrant.
Suspecting that the man might be violent, authorities set up a perimeter
around the house and evacuated residents from nearby houses.
They also shut off electricity to the neighborhood.
Agents, as well as Stedmans parents, tried telephoning Stedman, but
there was no answer. The standoff
lasted all night long (neighbors had to sleep at hotels or elsewhere).
to officers, the residence was empty. Stedman
had fled almost immediately, seeking out members of the militia. By the next
morning, Ohio militia members had positioned themselves around the perimeter,
some walking through the neighborhood, while others drove around in vehicles,
communicating by citizens band radio. Militia members told ATF agents they were there to monitor
the situation. Militia members,
including some from other states, also began phoning the local ATF offices and
the Parma Police Department. ATF
agents saw no weapons, though there were reports that some militia members were
armed. However, the fact that the
house was empty meant that there could be no full-fledged confrontation; when
shortly after dawn officers entered the house, they discovered it was empty, and
the standoff situation quickly evaporated.
phone calls to police agencies are one of the few clues (if officers do not know
beforehand) of militia or extremist proclivities that a potential standoff or
confrontation may provide. This is
because a common extremist tactic is that of the phone wave.
Militia leaders urge their followers to bombard local law enforcement and
judicial offices with waves of phone calls, to intimidate people and to tie up
the system. There are even
videotapes that promote the sometimes frustrating tactic.
Because phone waves are often conducted on behalf of people who are in
situations conducive to militia confrontations (the exception consisting
basically of phone waves occurring after an arrest), phone calls by extremists
supporting people in standoff-like circumstances should be taken by authorities
as evidence pointing to the possibility of a militia confrontation.
example, on April 19, 1999, a regular listener called into Michigan militia
leader Mark Koernkes Intelligence Report shortwave radio program.
The listener, a Louisiana woman named Shannon Champagne, claimed that
officers had tried to serve her with a bench warrant for not appearing in court
over a traffic violation, but apparently she attempted to prevent the service,
refusing to open the door for them. She
told Koernke that she was willing to draw a line in the sand over the
issue. She asked listeners to call
the sheriffs office on her behalf. Koernke
told her that there were people in neighboring states who could help her and
that she should call them. The next
day, discussing the incident, Koernke reported that even Canadians had called
down to Louisiana. But one month
later, a distraught Shannon called the program againat that very moment the
local sheriff was evicting her and her boyfriend from their residence.
In this case, perhaps because authorities were in the same room as
Shannon, Koernke merely suggested that local militia members provide physical
assistance in helping them move and tried to calm Shannon down.[vii]
confrontations are, understandably, hard to predict, but there are some possible
confrontations that are even more difficult to anticipate.
These are opportunity confrontations, in which the victim has no
connection whatsoever to militia members or extremists, but is nevertheless
identified as a suitable victim by local or other militia groups.
Sometimes, as in the case of Shirley Allen (see appendix), the
confrontation occurs because of media publicity given to an initial incident.
However, confrontations may be even more sudden and unanticipated,
because many militia groups have members who routinely use scanners to monitor
police and emergency communications. Thus,
based on the incomplete and partial information available through those sources
alone, a militia group could potentially decide to intervene.
example of a near-intervention incident illustrates the potential dangers of
such a confrontation. In late March
1995, the patriot community was beset, as it so often is, by rumors of an
imminent roundup of patriot and militia leaders by federal law
enforcement. In Licking County,
Ohio, a county somewhat to the east of Columbus, a militia member spotted two
vehicles full of men in black uniforms and alerted other militia members in that
county. These members panicked,
because the alleged sighting took place only two miles from the house of one of
the leaders of the militia. The
militia assumed that some sort of government team was out to get him, so they
mobilized. They also
contacted J. J. Johnson, a telephone lineman in Columbus and at that time
spokesperson for the Ohio Unorganized Militia.
Johnson and his wife Helen also assumed some sort of takedown was
involved, so they notified militia members near Licking County.
to J. J. Johnson (who spoke about the incident several days later to a militia
group in Michigan), one militia member monitoring transmissions via scanner
found civilian transmissions on a military channel which seemed to be law
enforcement officers reporting about a surveillance target they were following.
The militia assumed that this was in fact a reference to the
situation in Licking County and began preparing for what might possibly
be a hostile action. Eventually,
however, they stood down, when it became clear that the police
transmissions had to do with a law enforcement action in Columbus itself.
In fact, following a year-long undercover investigation, ATF agents, U.S.
Marshals and Columbus police officers launched major raids against members of a
gang in Columbus called the Short North Posse that had been suspected of drug
trafficking, firearms violations
and money laundering. Well over
forty members were arrested. The
Ohio militia members had been listening to transmissions coming from the police
command post established at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.[viii]
can imagine what might have happened had either the Ohio militia actually
descended on Licking Countyperhaps encountering a law enforcement officer
they thought might be involved in the "situationor alternatively,
decided that the events in Columbus merited their attention. A major police raid against a gang of heavily-armed drug
dealers that suddenly encountered armed and somewhat hostile militia members
appearing out of nowhere could easily go awry.
The odds for some sort of encounter were increased by the fact that J. J.
Johnson, who coordinated militia activities during the scare, was a proponent of
militia confrontations. In fact,
shortly after the scare, he addressed a group of militiamen and gave them advice
on how to handle such situations. Upon
hearing of an event, the militia should first send someone in a vehicle with a
pager or other radio to the scene, to act as the eyes and ears of the militia.
Then efforts should be made to make sure that law enforcement does not
have control of the situation. Johnson
called this activity FACT, for First Amendment Chaos & Tactics.
Examples of suggested tactics for militia members included calling the
Fire Department and reporting a fire in the neighborhood of the victim, calling
the media and having them show up, ordering pizza deliveries for the house,
calling airport shuttle services, and ordering taxicabs from various companies.
Members in the area were urged to take actions such as setting off
strings of firecrackers and unplugging fire hydrants.
The idea, he suggested, was to make police lose control of the situation
and to close them down until help gets on the way. Johnson did not elaborate on the nature of that help.
The potential tragic effects of gunfire-imitating firecrackers being set
off during a tense standoff situation should be obvious to all.[ix]
militia groups have identified a victim, the next step towards a militia
confrontation is mobilizing support for such an event.
Far more attempts at mobilization are made than actually succeed, and
failure usually indicates that a confrontation will not occur.
Human nature being what it is, many militia members are often more
willing to engage the enemy rhetorically rather than to do it in the flesh. At that point, considerations such as family, job, and jail
begin to come into play.
there are times when militia leaders successfully convince a critical mass of
followers to take action, and confrontations often ensue as a result.
Consequently, the procedures involved in mobilizing support are worth
looking at in detail. The examples already given provide some indication of how
support is mobilizedprimarily through electronic means, whether the pagers of
the Ohio Militia or Mark Koernkes shortwave radio show. What they share is the ability to reach large numbers of
followers over great distances in a remarkably short period of time.
Leaving aside print media such as newsletters and magazines, the most
common mobilization instruments include:
radio: CBs, ham radio, satellite
radio and FM microtransmitters
bear discussion in more detail.
of the most prominent methods of mobilization over the past decade has been the
fax machine. To a certain extent,
it has declined in popularity over time, though not as much as some other
methods, such as computer bulletin boards, which have been eclipsed by the
Internet. The heydey of the fax
machine was the period 1992-1996, when several fax networks such as the American
Patriot Fax Network were able to reach large numbers of people in the patriot
movement. Faxes have the advantage
over telephones and pagers in that they can transmit photographs and other
visual graphics; however, the Internet has largely usurped this function.
Faxes, sent long distance over the phone line, are also somewhat
expensive to send. As a result,
most of the large fax networks became moribund, though faxes are still sometimes
power of fax networks can be seen in an example provided by one confrontation
from 1995. In January 1995, local
authorities in Whatcom County, Washington, planned to evict a 70-year-old
veterinarian, Donald Ellwanger, from his property. Ellwanger was a tax protester owing more than $130,000 in
back taxes who argued that he was a sovereign of the Kingdom of God.
He and his supporters contacted the American Patriot Fax Network, which
sent out flyers to patriot and militia groups throughout the western United
States. The effort resulted in
forty people showing up at Ellwangers clinic, blockading the property with
their vehicles and causing police to back down and postpone the eviction.
The Washington State Patrol and the Whatcom County Sheriffs Department
gave contradictory answers as to whether or not the people who showed up were
militia members, but Ellwanger himself said that at least some of them were.
The power of the fax machine, however, was incontrovertibly demonstrated.
Eventually, authorities successfully evicted Ellwanger.[x]
and pagers are also frequently used, although the paranoia of many members
causes them to think that such devices are monitored with far greater frequency
than they actually are. As a
result, members are frequently asked to use coded messages rather than speak
openly. A number of militia units
go so far as to require that all their members wear pagers, so that they can be
mobilized easily by militia leaders.
radio has emerged as one of the most important tools in the propagation of
militia news and alerts. Technology
allows militia and patriot figures to conduct radio talk shows from their own
homes, using telephone lines to connect to a radio transmitter hundreds or even
thousands of miles away. In
addition, they reach people who may not be able to access the Internet with
ease. Often such shows are
sponsored by precious metals dealers or survival goods merchants who rely on the
fear and paranoia inspired in listening audiences by the program hosts to
generate sales. Some shortwave
radio hosts routinely broadcast messages about extremists in distress, and
either explicitly or implicitly urge that listeners rally to help them. During the Montana Freemen standoff, militia members in New
England were urged to contact shortwave hosts if they faced hostile
encounters. Suggested a militia
newsletter, This will get you a nationally broadcast forum 24 hours per day;
our underground networks will be activated and we will do everything in our
power to assist you.[xi]
recent example comes from Mark Koernkes Intelligence Report.
In July 1999, an extremist named Robert Bournes was indicted on weapons
charges, but was for a time unwilling to give himself in.
He seemed to have been encouraged in this by Koernke, who held out the
example of a Michigan militia member who had recently been given a forty-year
sentence. Koernke used his
radio program to mobilize support for Bournes, suggesting that militia groups in
Michigan, Indiana and Ohio were on alert and were ready to fight the feds. His broadcasts were highly confrontational, even suggesting
that although the militia would not go against rank and file federal
agents, it would go after the people who sent them.
Predicting actual fighting, he said the conflict "probably won't
start the way you think, but will probably involve a secondary event on the
shortwave radio is the most powerful radio format, in terms of mobilizing
support, it is not the only one. Various
other formats, including satellite radio, ham radio, and FM microtransmitters
are often used. These signals can
generally only be picked up by a small number of people, but the Internet is
increasing the reach of such programs, because it is possible to send audio
programs out through the Internet, even more or less live.
Thus many of these programs are also broadcast over the Internet.
Internet, in fact, is quickly becoming the most important tool of militia and
patriot mobilization, surpassing shortwave radio. Extremists recognized the power of computer communications
long before the Internet became widely used.
They easily made the leap to the Internet in the 1990s, using features
such as e-mail lists and Usenet newsgroups.
The advent of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s opened up a new avenue
of approach, one which extremists quickly adopted. The first extremist website, Stormfront, a Neo-Nazi site,
began operation in early 1995. Today
there are thousands.
Internet offers inexpensive, extremely fast communication.
Militia members and other extremists can post daily or even more frequent
updates to developing situations on their own webpages.
By 1997 one confrontation episode in Massachusetts even had its own Web
site. Aside from online chat, the quickest form of Internet communication
remains Usenet. Usenet is a
collection of thousands of discussion groups, to which people post messages on
related subjects. One such
newsgroup, for instance, is misc.activism.militia, started in January 1995 to
talk about the then still-new militia movement.
Because Usenet does not involve designing webpages, but merely typing
messages, it often approaches real time in the speed of its interactions.
Rumors, repeated often in a short span of time, quickly become accepted
as fact. As a result, Usenet often
plays an important role in mobilizing militia support.
During the 1997 siege of Shirley Allen in Roby, Illinois, for
instance, militia and patriot sympathizers daily discussed the situation
and what should be done.
example of a Usenet alert may provide an illustration of their inflammatory
nature. The following example comes
from late 1997, when an Oregon family had a brief confrontation over land.
It is only an edited portion of the entire message, which describes the
situation in more detail; typography is as in original:
Militia Alert No More Burning of Men, Women & Children
NO MORE WACOS
NO MORE BURNING
OF MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN
THIS MESSAGE TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS
BECAUSE WE CAN BE
SURE THE MEDIA WILL IGNORE THIS.
WILFLEY RIDGE: ANOTHER FEDERAL SEIGE?
Why do I get the
feeling that for every one of these we hear about, there are a hundred others
that we never do. DaveK-
reported in this article is 100% accurate, then this is the BIG ONE.
The Militia should go to Oregon and just say NO to the Feds.
All of you who were saying that the Shirley Allen case in Illinois was
worth fighting for should definitely be fired up and ready to go to Oregon. This case is unquestionably the one weve been waiting for.
We need a case that is unquestionably a clear cut example of indefensible
actions by the government and this could be it.
NO MORE WACOs and No More Ruby Ridges.
entire message included much quoted material from previous posts, along with new
comments, with the result is that the post is confusing in terms of which person
actually posted which portion of the message. But in this it is merely representative of the status quo on
Usenet. With each new iteration,
however, the additions to the message became more strident and alarmist.
That is how alarm builds up on Usenet, as each person responds to posts,
without waiting for new information to surface.[xiii]
Appearance at the Scene
mobilization efforts by militia and patriot leaders are successful, then
individuals or groups will start showing up at the scene.
Depending upon circumstances, this can occur in various different ways,
some of which are more dangerous than others.
the most dangerous form of appearance at the scene is a sudden appearance after
police have shown up. Typically
this is because the perceived victim has telephoned supporters after noticing
police. Sometimes this sort
of confrontation occurs as a result of traffic violations.
For instance, the daughter of a militia member or other extremist may be
caught speeding. Instead of pulling over, the daughter keeps driving, causing
the officer to begin a low speed chase. The
daughter drives home and pulls into the driveway. Meanwhile, witnessing the situation, the father begins
calling up militia friends to come over. Before
the officer has fully comprehended the situation, there are a dozen angry
militiamen entering the front yard. Sudden
appearances represent the greatest danger, because the levels of adrenalin and
tension are high, as are the chances that individuals on one side or another
might make a foolish mistake and precipitate some sort of shootout or other
the arrival of militia members may predate the appearance of law enforcement.
This is the second type of appearance.
Many scenarios involve long-standing disputes over land or property, in
which the victim has known for some time that officers will eventually be
coming onto the property. Thus
sometimes militia members will already be present when law enforcement officers
arrive. In some cases, militia members have even temporarily moved
into the residence and operated patrols around the property.
Some of these land disputes can essentially last for months or even
years, although periods of actual or potential confrontation are much shorter.
Because the victim is often afraid to leave the propertyfor fear it
will be seizedsupporters often play a role in providing food and other
of their long-term nature, such confrontations offer the best opportunities for
intelligence-gathering by law enforcement officers and so authorities should be
able to be forewarned, knowing that the property is being guarded by militia
third type of appearance occurs neither before the confrontation or during its
beginning stages, but well after the confrontation has developed.
In such cases, people appear later, as the publicity of a standoff
reaches them. Such appearances are
more often designed to protest the situation rather than expressly to cause law
enforcement officers to back down. They
also more frequently involve leaders of the patriot movement who flock to
the event in order to gain publicity. The
standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, was essentially an example of this sort
of appearance, as various people came to the standoff to protest the actions of
the authorities. The primary danger
represented by such appearances is the possibility of an individual deciding to
take action on his own.
confrontations are a subject that some militia members have thought and talked
about. In 1996, J. J. Johnson even
went so far as to write a newsletter article titled Op Strategy, about the
tactics of arranging a militia confrontation, or, as Johnson put it, an
organized response to an unconstitutional assault on a citizen or group of
citizens by the federal government. Suggests
Johnson, all personnel should wear their gear
to the scene, since the
arrival of armed citizens at the scene will most likely be met with at least a
hostile attitude. If government
agents decide to arrest one or more of the Patriots for weapons violations, the
situation could come to a boil almost immediately upon arrival. Patriots must be cognizant of weapons handling.
DO NOT point a weapon in the direction of a government agent unless you
are prepared to fire.[xv]
essential goal of extremists during a militia confrontation is to cause law
enforcement to back down. However,
with the exception perhaps of isolated individuals, the people who show up (as
opposed to those rallying behind them safely on the Internet) do not usually
wish to use violence. They hope
that the fact of their appearance, along with perhaps the implicit threat of
violence, will be enough to do the trick.
a result, several generalizations may be made about the period of confrontation
in such standoffs. Typically,
people at the scene will not threaten violence.
In some cases, militia leaders urge followers who wish to participate to
leave their weapons behind, although such wishes are not always honored.
Even in cases when militia groups come armed, they will often leave such
weapons in their vehicles. This has
the beneficial effect for law enforcement of reducing the possibility of
often, militia members will bring video cameras, hoping to catch law enforcement
officers in some indiscretion, or simply to try to modify law enforcement
behavior by reminding them that their actions will be caught on tape.
Commonly, militia members will also bring a variety of communications
equipment, with which to communicate with each other and to listen in on law
enforcement communications. In some
standoffs, they have even brought computers, to make sure that their messages
get out on the Internet.
on the scene, militia members may engage in a variety of actions, depending on
the circumstances and on their mood. They
may demand to speak to those in charge, they may demand the release of the
victim or that law enforcement officers leave, they may demand to speak to the
victim, or they may offer to negotiate with them.
They may desire to bring supplies such as food.
In sudden appearances in urban or suburban areas, militia members may
circle the area in vehicles, establishing a perimeter outside the law
enforcement perimeter. Sometimes, militia members may approach individual law
enforcement officers in an attempt at intimidation. Though not likely, it is possibleit happened during the
Montana Freeman standoffthat some individuals may try to break through a
police perimeter or roadblock to get to the victim.
the tensions of the initial appearance have subsided, so, generally speaking, do
the dangers of militia confrontations. One
reason for this is that militia members often cannot stay very long, especially
if they have traveled a long distance. They have jobs to work at and families to support, and
generally do not have a lot of money to spend on travel or hotels.
As a result, militia support tends to fade over time, sometimes
completely. Typically, too, a
second crisis situation does not create as much fervor as a first, so law
enforcement officers who can wait out the standoff or who can leave and come
back at a later date may be able to accomplish their task more successfully.
the end of a confrontational situation will not mean the end of the whole
episode, particularly if extremist opinion has successfully been mobilized.
There may be additional protests, courtroom shenanigans, and perhaps even
attempts at retaliation. Authorities
should be aware that just because the immediate confrontation is over, the
situation has not necessarily completely defused.
Considerations for Successful Confrontation Resolution
confrontations are unpleasantand often unexpectedoccurrences.
While so far there have been few serious adverse consequences stemming
from them, the possibility of violence and tragedy is nevertheless always
present. Moreover, an ill-conducted
response to a militia confrontation could both have serious repercussions to an
agency or department and could significantly fuel extremist activity.
Another Waco or Ruby Ridge could spur additional acts of major terrorism
such as the Oklahoma City bombing. As
a result, militia confrontations should be taken seriously.
are, luckily, considerations that can be taken into account to help minimize the
chances of confrontations and, should they occur, the dangers of them.
The following items are offered, based on these assumed priorities:
1) the desire to avoid any sort of violence, and 2) the need to
accomplish the job at hand successfully.
of potential confrontational situations. The
role of intelligence is crucial in this regard, although it is admittedly more
difficult to accomplish in urban rather than rural settings.
Still, local law enforcement authorities should attempt to inform
themselves about future potential conflicts.
In rural areas, for instance, authorities should know the circumstances
behind farm or farm machinery repossessions.
Talking to farm lenders can help identify people who have made incendiary
statements and might pose a danger. Similarly,
authorities should also be aware of the nature of extremist groups and
individuals in their area. Knowing
that a militia leader who believes in militia confrontations lives in the next
county would be extremely valuable information in terms of determining the
necessity of taking precautions. Authorities
at higher levels, such as at the state level, can play a broader role in
alerting local law enforcement about the possibility of confrontations by such
means as paying attention to discussions on the Internet.
The goal should be as few surprises as possible.
phone calls seriously. One of the
best signs of a potential confrontation is a wave of phone calls to law
enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, and public officials. This may be a sign of phone harassment or it may simply
represent the fact that militia and patriot leaders are urging people to
call in support of perceived victims, but in either case it is a clear sign that
they are actively engaged in trying to mobilize support for a cause.
Because police officers may not routinely monitor shortwave radio or the
Internet, waves of phone calls may be one of the first real signs of extremist
mobilization that they encounter. As
a result, such phone waves should not be ignored.
ways to defuse confrontational situations before they occur or as they occur.
Perhaps talking to a lending agency might convince someone to renegotiate
the loan terms of a financially desperate potential victim.
Although such actions might seem out of the ordinary routine for law
enforcement, or even for public officials, sometimes a small amount of this sort
of effort can help prevent a much worse situation down the road.
Unfortunately, quite often people will be unwilling to make this extra
effort because the potential victims are sometimes very antisocial and unlikable
individuals. Still, it may be
better to grit ones teeth and do a good deed rather than chance a volatile
ways to use extremist individuals for positive ends.
Authorities in Illinois, by taking Jack McLamb into their confidence,
convinced him that their actions were reasonable and caused him to act as a
defusing agent. Often such efforts
only have a temporary effect, but that may be just long enough to get past the
point of high risk. Similarly, one might well consider approaching an extremist
not directly involved in the standoff or confrontation as a negotiator.
Because this appeals to their own pride and ego, they may often prove
receptive. Of course, care should
be taken as to which individuals are selected.
Still, sometimes even the most unlikely individuals can actually be used
successfully. An example of an
early militia confrontation illustrates this principle.
Early in 1995, a militia leader in southern Indiana received a court
order to turn his two children over to his ex-wife.
The leader, Mark Adams, refused. Phone
calls from supporters of Adams to the local sheriff threatened armed
resistance. As a result, the
sheriff, when he decided to come for the children, set up roadblocks to make it
difficult for Adams supporters to show up, and also called for help from the
Indiana State Police. However, when
Adams called for help, his supporters walked through woods to elude roadblocks
and a militia confrontation ensued anyway.
But relatives of Adams, also militia members, contacted Indiana militia
leader Linda Thompson for assistance, and Thompson helped negotiate an agreement
to end the confrontation.[xvi]
authorities should keep in mind the possibility of what one might call a
tactical retreat. Although
some situations will by their very nature preclude the option of beating a
temporary retreat, in other situations the tactic might be just what is needed.
The dynamics of militia confrontationsparticularly that militia
members tend to be unable to stay long at the scene of a confrontation and that
they also tend to lose interest in repeatedly showing up for possible
confrontations at a particular place (the cry wolf situation)sometimes
make it attractive to wait until a situation has calmed down somewhat before
At all times, of course it is necessary to maintain
control of the situation, but also to keep a sense of perspective.
Militia confrontations are rarely about groups of barricaded felons who
represent a clear and immediate danger to the community.
More often they are about individuals about to lose a farm, a home, a son
or daughter, or perhaps who have committed some minor infraction.
Apparently abandoned by everyone else, they turn to the militia for help.
The militia do help, for reasons spurred by their own ideology and sense
of purpose. The greatest danger of militia confrontations is that someone
will make a sudden, wrong decision. While
authorities generally cannot do anything about wrong decisions emanating from
militia members, they can work to minimize the chances that they themselves will
previous sections of this report explored the origins of the militia movement,
how their ideology leads them to consider militia confrontations, and the
general dynamics of militia confrontations.
The following section includes four case studies of particular militia
confrontations, all of which occurred (primarily) during the period 1996-97.
They include a week-long standoff in a remote town in Louisiana, a
conflict over a eminent domain proceeding outside Memphis, Tennessee, a
long-standing dispute over repossession of a mansion in a posh Massachusetts
neighborhood, and a highly-publicized standoff in rural Illinois.
Appendix One: Coushatta, Louisiana, 1996
of the first significant confrontations to receive considerable publicity
involved out-of-state militia groups and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The perceived victim of the confrontation was a sovereign
citizen named Lynn Truman Crawford, a 42-year-old physician from Mesquite,
Texas, who claimed that he a citizen of the Republic of Texas who had no
obligation to obey federal laws.
Crawford owed more than $70,000 in child support to his ex-wife, who lived in
St. Louis, Missouri. Failure to pay
child support across state lines is a federal misdemeanor under the Child
Support Recovery Act of 1992. Federal
agents eventually tracked him to his mothers house in remote Coushatta,
Louisiana. On February 21, a
group of FBI agents and local Red River Parish sheriffs deputies descended
upon the house in order to serve the arrest warrant.
refused to acknowledge the authority of the federal government and would not
come out. He brandished a shotgun
and threatened to kill anybody who entered the house. Efforts to get him out using a police dog were unsuccessful.
now realized that they had a standoff situation on their hands.
They backed off and set up an armed perimeter.
Simultaneously, inside the house, Crawford was calling for help.
Crawford contacted an extremist shortwave radio program in Colorado,
which put him in touch with a Texas militiaman, Johnny Johnson.
Johnson taped a conversation with Crawford, which was then broadcast.
I have had my life threatened; I am in fear for my life, Crawford
said. I am asking for any
able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 who will uphold the law and defend
those who are being abused by those who violate the law to come and assist me in
any way they can...[xvii]
of the first indications that authorities had that extremist support was being
mobilized was a wave of phone calls. Within
hours of the initial incident, the Red River Parishs sheriffs office began
getting callsat least a hundredfrom all around the country.
The militia was spreading the word using fax networks, telephone trees
and the Internet.
evening, militia members had begun arriving on scene. Local law enforcement officers reported that they were
arriving with videocameras but apparently not guns, although some officers
present did later say they had seen some weapons.
However, at the same time, FBI authoritieskeeping in mind Ruby Ridge
and Wacowisely decided that the potential for violence with Crawford, and the
misdemeanor warrant, did not justify the large law enforcement presence, which
at that time numbered around fifty officers, including a SWAT team.
James V. DeSarno, Jr., the FBI agent in charge, had Ruby Ridge on his
mind and wanted no repeat of that debacle.
I didnt feel that this guy warranted a lot of attention, DeSarno
told reporters. Hes a
deadbeat dad, not a murderer. I was
not there to give him a stage that he could use to foster whatever views of
government he had. So we backed
out. Authorities settled on a
minimum force of four agents in cars to make sure that Crawford did not run
by then a variety of militia members were already on their way to Coushatta from
Alabama, Texas, Missisippi and Missouri. These
included some prominent militia leaders, such as Drew Rayner of Mississippi and
Jim McKinzey of Missouri. Some
drove more than six hundred miles to the scene of the standoff.
By Sunday, February 25, there were a considerable, though disputed,
number of militia members at the standoff.
Law enforcement authorities tried to be as accommodating as possible,
even allowing militia members to open up negotiations with Crawford.
FBI agents assured dubious militia members that there was no intention to
harm Crawford or his mother.[xix]
there, though, militia members were already feeling the need to go home.
The fact that the person they were protecting was a deadbeat dad
also weighed on their minds; the militia movement had gotten enough negative
publicity already. The three-member
Missouri contingent contacted Crawford and informed him that they would stay as
observers for his surrender until Sunday evening.
Crawford refused to come out, so many militia members began leaving.[xx]
following day, Crawford began having second thoughts and eventually surrendered.
By that time there were only two militia members remaining.
However, the militia was quick to claim a victory from the incident.
Said Johnny Johnson, Its sending a message to our federal
government and law enforcement that theyre going to be watched.
Were not there to provoke any incident.
Were not there to break any laws
If this continues to go in this
direction, at what point do we see SWAT people coming into your home
and presenting you with a traffic ticket you thought you paid two
years ago? Militia members
claimed that had they not been present, the FBI would have assassinated
Crawford. Some, however, were more
pessimistic. Yes, Im afraid
that in the very near future, the irresistible force will meet the immovable
object, said one Alabama militiaman. The
battle in Coushatta tallied up, militia 1, feds 0.
We can only hope that continued, peaceful intervention will produce the
same results, but if you will look at the level of escalation
you will realize
that peaceful intervention may not stop the next government atrocity.[xxi]
Appendix Two: Southhaven, Mississippi, 1997-1999
more well-publicized than the Coushatta confrontation was one that occurred in a
suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, in 1997. The
root of the conflict involved an eminent domain seizure.
In 1987 the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority instituted a
noise abatement program because of complaints by local residents.
A significant portion of the program was a buyout plan designed to
purchase certain properties near the airport.
families in the neighborhood soon accepted the offer, consisting of a purchase
price higher than market value as well as a generous moving allowance.
However, one family, that of Bill and Carolyn Cockrell, did not.
The neighbors of the Cockrells generally received up to $85,000 or
$90,000 for their homes, and a relocation allowance that ranged from $10,000 to
$15,000. However, Carolyn Cockrell
told reporters they wanted at least $100,000 to replace the home and $20,000 for
the family to relocate.[xxii]
1994, the Cockrells were the last family in the neighborhood.
Consequently the city of Southaven instituted eminent domain proceedings
against them. The eminent domain jury set an amount of $66,000 as the value
of the Cockrells home, and an escrow account was set up with that amount.
Cockrell fought all these proceedings, representing himself.
He also took other unusual methods, including deeding the property to his
son, in order to keep it out of the hands of the authorities.
the end of 1996, most legal avenues had been exhausted.
The county court issued a removal warrant for the family on January 17,
1997. However, Cockrell had an ace
of sorts up his sleeve; he contacted Drew Rayner, who headed the Mississippi
Militia. Rayner, who supported
militia confrontations, was only too glad to help.
That day he issued an alert. Billy
has requested militia support regarding the illegal and unconstitutional seizure
of his house and property, the alert stated.
The Mississippi group also mobilized a small observation group to
the Cockrells residence.[xxiii]
some reason, perhaps because of the presence of militia members on the property,
the county sheriff decided not to serve the warrant.
However, Southaven city attorneys informed the Cockrells that they had
posted a notice for the demolition of the Cockrell home on the date of January
30. Once more the word went out
over the Internet. You are
cordially invited to a campout
on the grounds of the Cockrell home, read
one such alert, issued on January 28. The purpose of this little get together will be to witness
that the Cockrells home will not be unlawfully demolished.[xxiv]
January 30, militia members from seven different states were camped out at the
Cockrell residence. Cockrell denied
knowing how the militia groups knew about the demolition date, although he
clearly had been in contact with Rayner for weeks. Militia members took the opportunity to distribute literature
on militias and jury nullification. Reporters
witnessed militia members carrying weapons.
The media had all four television affiliates and several newspapers on
absent, despite the demolition ultimatum, were local authorities.
Southaven and De Soto County officials claimed that there were no
immediate plans for the houses seizure or demolition.
In the meantime, militia members continued to guard the Cockrells
property. Supporters of the Cockrells continued to issue pleas for help
over the Internet. In fact,
however, Southaven Mayor Joe Cates announced in early February that the city
would delay demolition plans until an appeal court had ruled on the removal
warrant. The militia movement
attributed the delay to the presence of the militias and the subsequent media
attention. This in fact may have
been a factor in the sudden cautiousness adopted by local authorities. Their caution was soon cemented by a stay issued by a county
Cockrells continued the battle in their own fashion, launching a blizzard of
harassing lawsuits against city and county authorities.
In this fashion, the Cockrells held off seizure for more than two years
as the various suits and appeals made their way through the court system.
Some in the community supported the Cockrells, especially after local
officials announced plans for a golf course on the buyout program properties.
The militia movement, in the meantime, counted the Cockrell situation as
one of their victories.[xxvii]
however, the state supreme court denied a petition to rehear the case.
Local officials were once more faced with seizing a home held by a
defiant family with ties to the militia movement.
This time, however, law enforcement put considerable thought into the
matter. In fact, they even
practiced their plan at a private training facility in Arkansas.
In early March 1999, when Carolyn Cockrell and son Jeffrey were visiting
relatives in Memphis, authorities decided to move.
In the early evening, the sheriff sent a SWAT team numbering over a dozen
men to the Cockrell residence.[xxviii]
of the SWAT team knocked on the front door, then blew it open when there was no
response. SWAT officers entered the
house and searched the residenceempty, as it turned outfor bombs.
No bombs or booby traps were turned up, but law enforcement officers did
find five pistols, two assault rifles, fifteen other rifles, several shotguns,
and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Cockrell
had been out, and only came back to his house after it was effectively out of
his possession. Authorities removed
his possessions, then bulldozed the house down.
Eventually a few supporters showed up, but they did nothing. Out-of-state militia figures announced their willingness to
help, but only if local militia took the initiative.[xxix]
this well-planned operation, local authorities clearly caught the militia
off-guard. Militia leaders tried to
make the best of an embarrassing situation.
One militiaman claimed that in the best interests of the safety of
innocent neighbors and friends, the North Mississippi militia stood aside.
Drew Rayner claimed that Carolyn Cockrell asked the militia to sand
aside. Said Rayner: May God have mercy on the souls of each and
every man and woman who participated in this massacre of liberty and on those
who stand idly by and do nothing.[xxx]
Cockrell confrontation reveals both the dangers for local authorities and
officials in not being able to predict the possibility of a confrontation as
well as the benefits of planning for such circumstances.
The final seizure of the house was well-planned and without incident or
Hamilton, Massachusetts, 1997-1998
standoff in Hamilton, Massachusetts, like that in Southaven, involved an
eviction situation. John and Rhetta
Sweeney faced the loss of a fourteen-acre estate in the posh seaside town of
Hamilton, complete with mansion, to the FDIC for failure to repay a $1.6 million
loan. The Sweeneys alleged that the
bank that had originally loaned the money to them had swindled them.
State courts largely agreed with the Sweeneys, but because the bank went
out of business and the FDIC took it over, the case moved to federal court.
That court ruled that the Sweeneys owed the money, on which they had made
no payments, as well as the taxes that they had failed to pay, and ordered their
Sweeneys, however, refused to leave.
In June 1997 they barricaded the roads leading to their estate.
This posed a problem for the U.S. Marshals Service, which now had the
responsibility of evicting them. The
USMS first attempted to arrange mediation between the Sweeneys and the FDIC, in
hopes of arranging a peaceful end to the situation.
In the meantime, the Sweeneys had decided to seek other allies.
The call for help went out, and it was largely the militia that
responded. Linda Thompson, a
militia figure and lawyer from Indiana, offered her services to the Sweeneys and
barraged their opponents with demands and accusations.
The intervention of Thompson also assured that there would be more
publicity of the event in the patriot movement.[xxxi]
the mediation attempts went nowhere. Neither
side could come to an accommodation; the FDIC concentrated on coming up with
payment plans while the Sweeneys were concerned with identifying wrongdoing.
This meant that the government once again had the responsibility of
seizing the Sweeneys mansion. A
court-ordered stay on eviction lifted on January 5, 1998, some six months after
the beginning of the standoff. However,
by then the Sweeneys had become well-known to the militia movement.
Militia members from around New England had volunteered to come down and
were staying on the property. Were
not leaving the property, Rhetta Sweeney defiantly asserted, We regard the
orders as being invalid because the federal court lacks any jurisdiction.
We would regard any attempt to access the property as trespassing.
The Sweeneys even went so far as to set up a site on the World Wide Web
advertising their plight. By 1998,
the Sweeneys were being talked about and supported on shortwave radio, across
the Internet and in numerous extremist publications.[xxxii]
the marshals, the chief concern was the volunteers who were on the
Sweeneys property. Although the
Sweeneys claimed that no one on the property was armed, the marshals could not
know that for sure. Our No. 1
concern is for the safety of everyone, particularly law enforcement, and we will
defend ourselves if necessary, said Timothy G. Bane, the chief deputy of the
Boston office, which was overseeing the case.
However, Bane had no desire to move precipitously.[xxxiii]
deadline for the Sweeneys to leave came and went without incident.
The marshals did not show up, leaving the Sweeneys and their militia
assistants still in control of the property.
Militia members patrolled the property, inspected incoming vehicles, and
communicated with the outside via radios and the Internet, while battery-powered
spotlights were set up to cover the approaches.
The first floor windows were covered by wire mesh and wood. One
supporter, Eugene Johnson, a logger from Maine, drove down to support the
Sweeneys because, he said, Im a patriot.
others attempted to intervene in the standoff.
However, the Sweeneys refused all outside efforts, relying instead on
their militia supporters, who, John Sweeney said, have opened their hearts
and their bibles to us. As many
as 30 supporters at times patrolled the Sweeneys estate, or, as one billboard
erected on the property called it, the Federal FDIC Fraudulent Eviction
the patriot movement, rumors and allegations abounded.
Anonymous posters on the Internet claimed that the marshals would raid
the Sweeneys in February. Others
claimed the marshals would wait. The
Beast's patience is timeless, said one supporter.
During it's [sic] last attempt to seize the Sweeney home, members of a
local militia arrived to patrol the grounds. But it will out-wait them. At some
point, it will lie and say it is backing off. Everyone will go home, and it will
attack in the hours before dawn. We are at war, and we're too stupid to
know it. Linda Thompson claimed
that the governments goal was to shut up the Sweeneys, permanently, and
get away with it.[xxxvi]
increased the pressure on the Sweeneys, including threatening to arrest people
who came on their property. They
moved onto the property itself on February 27, then finally ended the standoff
the next day, nine months after it began. The
raid took place during a weekend because of the proximity of a school.
After an unsuccessful attempt to convince Sweeney to leave voluntarily,
half a dozen marshals broke a window to allow entry and arrested Sweeney hiding
in a second-floor laundry room. Rhetta
Sweeney was not on the property, having left to go to Washington, D.C., to lobby
for assistance, where authorities served her with a court order barring her from
returning. Sweeneys militia
supporters had been caught off guard, and apparently off the property.
Other supporters on the property left willingly.
Sweeney was charged with criminal contempt for defying the court order to
evacuate the property.[xxxvii]
Sweeney standoff was another example of authorities picking the circumstances in
which to end the siege, circumstances in which the supporters could be
neutralized and the chances of a hostile encounter minimized.
It represented, however, a new plateau reached in the ability of the
patriot movement to mobilize support over the Internet.
Appendix Four: Roby, Illinois, 1997
the three above case studies, the confrontations were all brought about by
individuals in distress who contacted members of the militia. The
final case study, involving the standoff at Roby, Illinois, in the fall of 1997,
is quite different. In this
instance, a standoff situation developed completely on its own, but was
adopted by the militia movement. In
this regard it stands as a warning that, given sufficient publicity, any sort of
standoff could conceivably become fodder for the militia movement.
situation in Roby, Illinois, began on September 22, 1997, at the home of a
51-year-old woman named Shirley Ann Allen.
Allen, a former nurse who lived alone in the hamlet of Roby, some fifteen
miles east of Springfield, had been exhibiting signs of mental illness that had
disturbed members of her family. Her
relatives obtained a court order for Allen to undergo a psychological
examination. However, when
Christian County sheriffs deputies arrived at her house to execute the court
order and escort her to the evaluation, Shirley Allen threatened them with a
shotgun. Deputies then
unsuccessfully tried to use tear gas canisters to force her out. Eventually,
they retreated and called in the Illinois State Police, who came in, set up a
command post, and established a perimeter around the residence.
A standoff had begun.
attempts to convince Allen to leave the house failed. At one point, she stepped out of the house and began yelling
at negotiators. State police fired
beanbag bullets at her, hoping to knock her down so that they could rush in and
seize the weapon. However, the
beanbags had little effect. Allen
retaliated, firing her shotgun, but not hitting anybody.
Law enforcement officers were in a quandary; while Allen had threatened
them with a weapon and could not be let alone, it was obvious that she was quite
possibly mentally impaired and therefore could not be dealt with in the same
manner as if she were a barricaded felon. We
are trying to be compassionate in this case, said a state police spokesman.
Our goal is to get this woman the treatment she needs and not to turn
this into a tragedy.[xxxviii]
the end of the week, local coverage of the event, especially over the radio, had
raised considerable sympathy for Allen and anger at police.
As early as Friday, September 26, local talk show hosts had dubbed the
standoff Roby Ridge, a reference to the standoff at Ruby Ridge in 1992.
Illinois State Police Director Terrance Gainer expressed irritation at
broadcasts that talked about militiamen rising up with arms and coming to the
area to defend the woman against police. That
kind of talk inflames things and makes it harder to do our job. In fact, the situation was no longer localas far away as
Las Vegas, Nevada, radio talk show hosts discussed Shirley Allen.
The local sheriffs office began receiving waves of telephone calls
from around the country.[xxxix]
of the patriot movement were furious. Said
one poster on the Internet, If these extreme measures were being implemented
in the former Soviet Union rather than in the American rural town of Roby, we
may have condemned the actions of The Evil Empire
But in the United
States of America, our citizenry seems to treading water not unlike the
perverbial [sic] frog in the saucepan. A rogue minority within government keeps
slowly turning up the heat until we boil and burst without knowing what hit
did not take long for Illinois to become a pilgrimage site for out-of-state
militia figures seeking publicity. Although
Shirley Allen had never called in the militia, they had decided to intervene,
partially out of a sincere desire to help her against what they considered
tyrannical law enforcement and partially out of a more calculating desire to get
publicity. What many militia
leaders were looking for was another Ruby Ridge or Waco to galvanize public
opinion and somehow recharge the movement. Shirley Allens standoff seemed to be just that sort of
opportunity. Some even speculated
on the effects that her death might cause.
Allen, they thought, along with other incidents such as Ruby Ridge and
Waco, would demonstrate the culpability of the government, and as the truth
of that sinks into the soul of the American people, it will be the most
effective militia recruitment tool possible.
Other figures in the militia movement simply demanded action.
Don Rudolph, a California militia figure, put it in very stark terms:
No one should be NEGOTIATING for Shirley Allens freedom. If the MILITIAMEN had the balls, they would take up arms, and
go set Shirley Allen free. That is
the function of the militia, to stand against tyranny, not to try to talk them
out of it.[xli]
it would have been very difficult for the militia to have rescued Shirley
Allen, as there was not only a considerable police presence, but even neighbors
had been evacuated from the area and the media moved a considerable distance
away. The militia would have
experienced problems even getting near Allen.
But as a vehicle for protests and publicity seeking, the venue was
perfect. One of the first militia
figures to arrive was Thomas Wayne, a national spokesman for the Michigan
Militia, who said he would come to save a womans life and save face for
the State Police, the Gestapo.[xlii]
members from Illinois, such as the Southern Illinois Patriots League, were
already on the scene, camping out in Roby and talking to reporters.
As the siege wore on, other figures announced they would go to Illinois.
Most prominent among them was Jack McLamb, leader of a patriot
group called Police Against the New World Order, whose stated goal is to
recruit police officers into the anti-government movement. McLamb, who had shown up uninvited at standoffs before,
suggested that he could act as a negotiator.
McLambs office dutifully distributed a biography to media that
described him as committed to protecting the people from the system and
putting an end to Weaver Mountain and Waco-style government planned
holocausts. Also arriving was J.
J. Johnson, the former Ohio militia figure, now hailing from Nevada.[xliii]
people on the scene denied any intention of physically rescuing Shirley Allen.
Instead, they claimed our main concern has been that some wackos may
try something like that. Weve
tried to put a stop to that. However,
there were threats to do just that coming from talk radio shows.
In mid-October, as the siege wore on, J. J. Johnson staged a protest on
the steps of the Illinois Capitol building, claiming that Allen was the victim
of an illegal in-house arrest. Yet
he himself came with an olive branch in his hand.[xliv]
Johnson and McLamb showed up in Illinois, the State Police intelligently
attempted to use them to help defuse the situation by bringing them into a
meeting with state police officials. They
even showed McLamb part of a 23-page letter Allen had written to relatives some
months ago, a letter that sparked much of the concern relatives had.
Law enforcement officers made every effort to demonstrate that they were
taking every possible measure to make sure that Allen was not harmed.
Their efforts had little effect on Johnson, except perhaps to temporarily
silence him, but they had considerable success in persuading former police
officer McLamb that they were doing the right thing.
Consequently at the rally, McLamb supported the state police.
The audience, which had expected very different words from McLamb, was
hostile, and some police officers at the rally realized that they might have to
protect McLamb from the crowd. However,
his words did have a calming effect on some in the militia movement, and after
his speech some were prepared to concede that Shirley Allen probably did have
state police were getting no closer to convincing Allen to come out.
Nothing seemed to work, not reducing the visible police presence, not
playing soothing Barry Manilow music, not shutting off electricity and
water. In late October, as the
siege reached its 35th day, the police threw pepper spray canisters
and sent a police dog into Allens home.
However, Allen shot the dog and at one point shot at police with a
handgun. Meanwhile, John Trochmann,
head of the Militia of Montana, showed up at the scene, addressing crowds of
Allen supporters. This is a priority, he said, Your neighbors life
is at stake. And if not hers,
yourssooner or later.[xlvi]
on October 30, 1997, Illinois State Police officers ended the standoff when
Allen went far enough out on her back porch that nearby law enforcement officers
felt safe in trying to restrain her. Neither
Allen nor any officers were injured, and the standoff was finally brought to a
peaceful conclusion. Allen was
taken in for mental evaluations and eventually released back to her house.
The standoff had been resolved successfully and without generating the
martyr that some in the movement had clearly desired.
Roby, Illinois, incident clearly revealed that virtually any sort of standoff
between government officials and citizens can become fodder for intervention by
the militia movement. Because of
the circumstances of the standoff, it was difficult, if not impossible, for
militia members to directly intervene; thus they were reduced largely to
protests. Nevertheless, because
future events may not be so advantageous, it is important for authorities to
consider the potential implications of any long-term standoff situation.
The sources used to write this account of Schipke and the standoff include
L. Anne Newell, Cops subdue mom and take toddler to end standoff, The
Arizona Daily Star, November 8, 1998; Jennifer Katleman,
Unsuperstitious candidate says 13 is lucky number, Tucson Citizen,
October 31, 1994; Parents Council for Family Rights website,
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/MSchipke4PCFR/; and a brief
interview with Pima County Sheriffs Department spokesperson Sgt. Brad
Sheila Wissner, Fear, suspicion of government cause surge in
Tennessee, The Tennessean, September 3, 1995.
Judd Slivka, Militia rallies behind farmer facing foreclosure, Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette, August 3, 1997.
Communication from Judd Slivka to the author, August 4, 1997.
The description of this confrontation is based on several partial sources.
Two articles from the Cleveland Plain Dealer describe the
standoff and the discovery that the house was empty, but neither article
mentions the militia; see Michael K. McIntyre, Agents, Parma police
surround home, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 24, 1995; ATF finds
home is empty after siege in Parma, Ibid, June 25, 1995.
Ted Almay, Superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal
Identification and Investigation, describes the incident briefly in
testimony on November 2, 1995, before a Congressional committee, focusing on
the militia involvement; see Ted Almay testimony, November 2, 1995, Federal
Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony. A similar description, differing in some details, can
be found in a March 1996 ATF report, Violent Anti-Government Groups:
Confrontations & Tactics.
The only copy of this report I have seen was reprinted by an Ohio
militia group, E Pluribus Unum, but it appears to have been accurately
reproduced; see E Pluribus Unum Newsletter, June 1996.
It was also placed on their website at http://www.infinet.com/~eplurib/batf.asp.
Intelligence Report Program Summaries, April 19, 20, 1999, May 18,
1999, SLATT Program Archives. Another
example of an extremist advocating the phone wave tactic can be found in a
recruitment videotape made by Adrian, Michigan, Pastor Rick Strawcutter, for
his First Amendment Church of Truth and Sanity program, a pyramid-scheme
like setup. Perhaps not
surprisingly, Strawcutter is an associate of Mark Koernke and produced
Koernkes first video.
Videotape, J. J. Johnson at Lowell, Michigan, April 1, 1995.
James Ridgeway, Rebirth of a nation:
fighting back at government, Posse style, The Village Voice,
March 21, 1995; Rob Carson, Concern high, facts scare about militias, Tacoma
News Tribune, May 2, 1995; Jim Simon, Many groups on far right are
more interested in legal battles, The Seattle Times, May 8, 1995;
Lou Dolinar, Radical right fights by fax, Long Island Newsday,
April 28, 1995.
Chaos Rising, White Mountain News, March 1996.
Intelligence Report Program Summaries, July 21-29, 1999, SLATT Program
Internet Usenet newsgroup posting, alt.conspiracy, November 11, 1997.
Situations similar to the example have occurred in Montana, Colorado, and
elsewhere. Many involve
sovereign citizens, as such individuals do not believe in the
legitimacy of most motor vehicle laws.
J. J. Johnson, Op Strategy, E Pluribus Unum, March 1996.
Johnson claimed that he found a two-year-old article and modified it.
Attorneys computer is a weapon for militias, The Indianapolis
News, April 26, 1995; Josh Meye, Paul Feldman, Erich Lichtblau,
Militia members threats, attacks on officials escalate, Los
Angeles Times, April 27, 1995.
Kim Cobb, Armed or not, militia response raises new fears, The
Houston Chronicle, March 3, 1996.
Richard Leiby, Potential flash point defused in Louisiana; standoff
reflects lessons of Ruby Ridge, Waco, The Washington Post, March
Press Release: Militia
Alert, posted on the Internet, March 1, 1996.
The Houston Chronicle, March 3, 1996; Jeff Randall, The Smell of
Victory, essay posted on the Internet at http://www.liberty.com/home/kholder/stand-off.asp.
William C. Bayne, We have never been quoted price for buyout, says
defiant resident, The Commercial Appeal, February 6, 1997.
Possible Problem Miss., E-mail alert sent January 17, 1997.
Mississippi Campout Notice, E-mail alert sent January 28, 1997.
William C. Bayne, Militia members gather to oppose airports eviction
of homeowner, The Commercial Appeal, January 31, 1997;
Mississippi Camp Out was Media Event!!! Patriot Information Mailing
List message, January 31, 1997.
CAMPOUT YOUR [sic] NEEDED! Patriot Information Mailing List
Message, February 1, 1997; Siege in North Mississippi (Update No. 1),
Stop All Federal Abuses Now Internet Newsletter, No. 280, February 6, 1997.
William C. Bayne, Southaven will pay legal expenses from Cockrell
lawsuit, The Commercial Appeal, May 15, 1997; Cockrell family
brief says county, state dont exist, Ibid, May 22, 1997; Man tells
court Southaven and airport have no right to his home, Ibid, August 30,
William C. Bayne, 12-year fight over home ends with seizure; militia
helpers nowhere around, The Commercial Appeal, March 5, 1999.
Ibid; William C. Bayne, Cockrell cache included assault weapons, Ibid,
March 9, 1999; Razed home yields large stash of cash; lone holdout in
airport dispute vows to sue, Ibid, March 6, 1999; High Alert,
Eagleflight Mailing List message, March 4, 1999.
Ibid; Assault on Cockrell Hill, North Mississippi Militia website,
http://members.xoom.com/nm_militia/cockrell.asp; Cockrell Hill,
Southaven, MS, Eagleflight Mailing List Message, March 6, 1999.
David Armstrong, Rightist assisting barricaded couple; advises Hamilton
pair at mediation, The Boston Globe, August 25, 1997.
Ed Hayward, Hamilton dispute coming to a head, The Boston Herald,
January 5, 1998.
David Armstrong, Marshals to evict, but wont say when, The
Boston Globe, January 6, 1998.
J. M. Lawrence, Deadline for eviction passes without incident, The
Boston Herald, January 6, 1998; Mike McIntire, The Sweeneys
standoff, The Hartford Courant, January 7, 1998; David Armstrong,
Sideshow springs up in Hamilton standoff, The Boston Globe,
January 8, 1998.
Eric Noonan, Militia takes up blue-bloods cause, AP news story,
January 8, 1998; Doris Sue Wong, Tension simmers in estate standoff;
lawmakers press appeal to Hamilton pair, The Boston Globe, January
9, 1998; Pamela Ferdinand, Of bluebloods and militias; wealthy
Massachusetts couple using barricades to fight federal eviction, The
Washington Post, February 19, 1998.
FEDS TO RAID SWEENEYS FEB 13 - FEB 23? Internet Usenet newsgroup
posting, alt.politics.media, February 11, 1998; The Mark of the Beast,
Internet Usenet newsgroup posting, alt.politics.Clinton.whitewater, February
11, 1998; Sweeney Siege Peaks, e-mail message from Linda Thompson,
February 18, 1998, posted in 03-08-98 PT 2:
The Konformist, Internet Usenet newsgroup posting,
misc.activism.militia, March 8, 1998.
Bill Porter, Marshals end 9-month Massachusetts standoff, AP news
story, February 28, 1998; Joyce Howard Price, Marshals hold off
couples allies; threaten prosecution for helping pair refusing
eviction, The Washington Times, February 28, 1998; Ellen OBrien
and David Armstrong, Sweeney arrest ends standoff; marshals seize
Hamilton estate, The Boston Globe, March 1, 1998; David Weber and
Jules Crittenden, Long standoff ends with Hamilton mans arrest, The
Boston Herald, March 1, 1998.
Wes Smith, Downstate standoff enters tense 2nd week,
Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1997.
Gregory Tejeda, Police concerned with broadcasts, United Press
International news story, September 26, 1997; Wes Smith, Downstate
standoff enters tense 2nd week,
Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1997.
Alert: New Ruby Ridge in
Progress, Internet Usenet
newsgroup posting, alt.conspiracy, September 30, 1997.
Mike Johnson [North Central Florida Regional Militia], Had the Militia
Rescued Shirley Allen, http://www.cool.media.net/cbg/ramble/shirley.asp.
Dave McKinney, Troopers try to soothe woman in rural standoff, Chicago
Sun-Times, October 1, 1997.
Dave McKinney, Police say Roby standoff costing at least $270,000, Chicago
Sun-Times, October 10, 1997.
Jefferson Robbins, Costs of Roby standoff mounting, The State
Journal Register, October 10, 1997; Bill Bush, Activist calls for
protest against police over Roby standoff, Copley News Service news tory,
October 13, 1997; Jefferson Robbins, Activist to lead rally for
safety, The State Journal Register, October 13, 1997.
J. J. Johnson, Report of meeting with Illinois gestapo on siege,
Internet Usenet newsgroup posting, talk.politics.guns, October 17, 1997; Joe
Mahr, McLamb: Police OK;
anti-government activists defends police at ralley, The State
Journal-Register, October 15, 1997; Larry Vanderwalle, Roby Sitrep,
Internet Usenet newsgroup posting, misc.activism.militia, October 16, 1997;
Kevin McDermott, Militia negotiator defends police actions in
standoff, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1997; Julie Grace,
Standoff at Roby Ridge, Time Magazine, October 27, 1997.
Joe Mahr, Police assault Allen home, The State Journal-Register,
October 27, 1997.