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Three white supremacists living in the Elohim City, Oklahoma, compound (see 1973 and After) visit Oklahoma City and make plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building there. The three are: James Ellison, the leader of the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord (CSA) who will be arrested in 1985 after a four-day standoff with federal authorities; Kerry Noble; and Richard Wayne Snell, who will be executed for murdering a black police officer and a businessman he erroneously believed to be Jewish (see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995). All three men have close ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s). The evidence of their plan is released during the investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and is collated by former US prosecutor Steven N. Snyder, who once worked out of the Fort Smith, Arkansas District Attorney’s office. The plan involves parking a van or trailer in front of the building and exploding it with rockets detonated by a timer. Snyder will come across the information on the bombing plot while preparing for the trial of a sedition case against a 14-man group of white supremacists, 10 of whom are charged with planning to overthrow the government. (All 14 will be acquitted in a 1988 trial—see Late 1987 - April 8, 1998.) Snyder will get the information from Ellison, who provides information to him as part of his role as chief witness for the prosecution. The other defendants in the trial, many of whom are believed to have had some connection to the bombing plot, will be Richard Butler, the head of Aryan Nations; Robert E. Miles, a former Klansman who heads the Mountain Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Cohoctah, Michigan; and Louis R. Beam Jr., a former grand dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan and “ambassador at large” of the Aryan Nations. Ellison will tell Snyder that in July 1983, he attends a meeting of extremist groups in Hayden Lake, Idaho, the location of the Aryan Nations headquarters, where he informs them of the death of fellow white supremacist Gordon Kahl in a gun battle with law enforcement agents in Arkansas (see March 13 - June 3, 1983). Snyder’s notes of Ellison’s statement read, “Kahl was the catalyst that made everyone come forth and change the organizations from thinkers to doers.” According to Ellison, the leaders of the various supremacist groups discuss how to overthrow the federal government, using as a sourcebook the novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which tells of a successful move by white supremacists to overthrow the government and then commit genocide against Jews and blacks. Ellison will tell Snyder that he volunteers to assassinate federal officials in Arkansas as part of the plot. The leaders discuss blowing up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, other federal buildings, and the Dallas office of a Jewish organization. According to Ellison’s trial testimony, in October 1983 Snell and another participant, Steve Scott, “asked me to design a rocket launcher that could be used to destroy these buildings from a distance.” Of Snell, Ellison will testify: “On one of the trips when I was with Wayne, he took me to some of the buildings and asked me to go in the building and check the building out. This kind of thing.” Ellison will tell Snyder that at Snell’s request, he surveills the Murrah Building to assess what it would take to damage and destroy it. He makes preliminary sketches and drawings. According to the preliminary plans, rocket launchers are to be “placed in a trailer or a van so that it could be driven up to a given spot, parked there, and a timed detonating device could be triggered so that the driver could walk away and leave the vehicle set in position, and he would have time to clear the area before any of the rockets launched.… And I was asked to make it so it would fit in either a trailer or a van or a panel truck.” Synder will later say that Snell is embittered towards the government because of the IRS, which took him to court and seized property from him for failure to pay taxes. But, Snyder will add, “you can’t be sure about any of this, because a federal raid, to a lot of these people, is any time the postman brings the mail.” Ellison will be taken into custody after a four-day standoff with state and federal authorities in 1985, only convinced to surrender after white supremacist Robert Millar talks him into giving up (see 1973 and After). Ellison will be convicted of racketeering charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He will enter the federal witness protection program until completing his parole and leaving the program on April 21, 1995, two days after the Oklahoma City bombing. (Thomas and Smothers 5/20/1995; Anti-Defamation League 8/9/2002; Nicole Nichols 2003)
Posse Comitatus (see 1969 and 1983) member and anti-tax protester Gordon Kahl (see 1967 - 1973) and three Posse members gun down two US marshals who are attempting to arrest Kahl in a confrontation near Medina, North Dakota. The two marshals are among a group of six attempting to apprehend Kahl in a 1977 income tax case after he violated his probation by refusing to file a tax return (see 1975 - 1981); he has been a fugitive since 1981.
Initial Attempts to Negotiate Peaceful Surrender Fail - In that year, Kahl refused to turn himself over to North Dakota federal marshal Harold “Bud” Warren after a number of telephone conversations in which Kahl insisted that he had been “illegally” convicted by the “forces of Satan.” Warren decided that Kahl’s probation violation was “hardly a serious crime” and decided not to pursue it, partially because he knew Kahl was a crack shot and feared he would lose officers in any attempt to arrest him.
Increasing Involvement in Posse Activities - Kahl moved to Arkansas, where he visited the compound of the white supremacist Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord organization. A member of that organization, Leonard Ginter, hid Kahl from federal authorities. Kahl’s wife, under tremendous stress from the situation, tried and failed to negotiate a settlement with the IRS, resulting in her excoriation by her 23-year-old son Yorie, who accused her of cooperating with “the tithing collectors of the Jewish-Masonic Synogogue [sic] of Satan.” Kahl became more and more involved in Posse Comitatus activities, traveling to Kansas and Colorado.
Return to North Dakota, Confrontation with Police - In January 1983 he and Yorie Kahl returned to North Dakota with the intention of setting up a Posse “township” near Medina, which they envisioned as being free from state and government control. Kahl’s station wagon is observed by Stutsman County deputy sheriff Bradley Kapp, who informs the Marshal Service in Bismarck. Warren’s successor, Kenneth Muir, authorizes Kahl’s arrest, and drives to Medina with Deputy Marshal Carl Wigglesworth to join two other deputy marshals, Robert Cheshire Jr. and James Hopson Jr. Kapp is spotted by some of his Posse colleagues, who quickly join him in planning to forcibly resist any arrest attempt. Reportedly, they receive the assistance of Medina police chief Darrell Graf, who is allegedly a Posse sympathizer. Kahl, Yorie Kahl, and Posse members David Broer and Scott Faul flee Medina in two Posse members’ cars, but the ruse only briefly confuses the marshals, and two police cars with flashing lights quickly apprehend Kahl and Broer. One car is driven by deputy police chief Steve Schnabel; the other by Muir and Wigglesworth. Kapp, Cheshire, and Hopson are close behind in a third vehicle. Kahl and Broer turn off the road into a driveway, and Kahl, armed with a modified Ruger Mini-14 assault rifle, prepares to open fire on the approaching police officers. The others leap out of their cars and, armed with Mini-14s, take up positions in a ditch. When the marshals arrive moments later, they get out of their cars and order the Posse members to lay down their weapons. One of the Posse members opens fire, and in the 30-second volley that ensues, Kahl and his fellow Posse members lay down a deadly fire that inflicts heavy damage on the outgunned marshals. Kahl wounds Kapp and Schnabel with two shots, and kills Muir with a shot to the heart. Muir fires off a single shot that gravely wounds Yorie. Hopson is struck in the head by a ricocheting bullet that causes permanent brain damage. Rifle fire from Yorie and Faul fatally wounds Cheshire. Kapp, severely injured, manages to shoot Yorie three more times, then takes cover. Kahl executes the dying Cheshire with a shot to the head, then points his rifle at the downed Schnabel, but chooses not to kill him, instead taking his police cruiser and fleeing the scene. He takes the injured Yorie to a Posse member, Dr. Clarence Martin; Yorie and Kahl’s wife Joan are arrested later that night at the hospital, and Yorie tells FBI agents some details of the confrontation. Faul, Broer, and Posse member Vernon Wegner are also arrested; Faul refuses to tell police or FBI investigators where Kahl might have fled to. Police find Schnabel’s abandoned police cruiser. Two days later, police surround Kahl’s farmhouse and bombard it with tear gas, only to find it abandoned. They do find a store of weapons and ammunition, and a collection of Posse Comitatus pamphlets and related documents. Kahl’s family insists that law enforcement efforts to apprehend Kahl are unfair, and complain that he is being “hunted like a dog.” Joan Kahl appears on television and tearfully pleads with her husband to surrender, to no avail. FBI and US Marshals descend on the local Posse Comitatus headquarters, and offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, but Kahl has disappeared into the shadows of the far-right militia network. (Ian Geldard 2/19/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center 12/2001; Levitas 2002, pp. 194-200; Nicole Nichols 2003; Anti-Defamation League 2011) Kahl’s murder of the marshals will be used by Posse Comitatus leader James Wickstrom to promote the anti-tax movement (see February 14-21, 1983). Four months later, Kahl will die in a bloody standoff with police officers in Arkansas (see March 13 - June 3, 1983).
Gordon Kahl, an anti-tax protester, Posse Comitatus member (see 1967 - 1973 and 1975 - 1981), and federal fugitive who killed two US Marshals in a February shootout in North Dakota (see February 13, 1983 and After), arrives at a farm in Mountain Home, Arkansas. The farm owner, Arthur Russell, is a member of another white supremacist organization, the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord (CSA), and willingly hides Kahl, who is facing a second warrant for his arrest issued March 11. Kahl spends two months hiding at Russell’s farmhouse, studying the Bible, watching television, and spending time with Russell’s daughter Karen. While Kahl is in hiding, his family and colleagues in the Posse who were involved in the shootout are tried in May 1983; his son Yorie Kahl and colleague Scott Faul are convicted of second-degree murder and six other related charges; David Broer is convicted of conspiracy and of harboring a fugitive; and his wife Joan Kahl is acquitted of conspiracy and harboring a fugitive.
FBI Learns of Kahl's Whereabouts - In late May, after the convictions, Kahl leaves the Russell farm with his CSA friend Leonard Ginter and Ginter’s wife Norma. Ginter, an unemployed carpenter, belongs to a small anti-government group called Americans for Constitutional Enforcement, but is not too ideologically rigid not to accept food stamps for himself and his wife. Kahl and the Ginters drive to Smithville, Arkansas, a tiny Ozark town where the Ginters have a concrete house with a vegetable patch and a chicken pen. After Kahl leaves, Karen Russell calls the FBI and informs them of his whereabouts.
Final Confrontation - On June 3, FBI agent James Blasingame organizes a group of US Marshals and local lawmen at the Lawrence County courthouse to plan how best to apprehend Kahl and the Ginters. Twenty-eight law enforcement officials, including 15 US Marshals, six FBI agents, three state police officers, and four county lawmen descend on the Ginter home. While en route, they encounter Ginter, driving away from the house in a car with a rifle in the backseat; he has a cocked and loaded pistol in his lap. Ginter is apprehended without incident, but lies to the police, saying Kahl is not at the house. Unfortunately, the officials believe his story. At the officials’ request, Ginter drives back to the house, with five officials behind. Ginter parks his car, as do the officials; Ginter gets out and shouts: “Norma, come out. The FBI wants to talk to you.” He emphasizes the word “FBI” as loudly as possible, alerting Kahl to their presence. Norma Ginter comes out and is escorted away. Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Matthews, departing from the plan, enters the house through a utility room off the garage, with US Marshal James Hall and Arkansas State Police investigator Ed Fitzpatrick following him. Kahl is waiting in the kitchen, armed with a formidable Ruger Mini-14 assault rifle. When Matthews enters the kitchen, the two men see each other and open fire simultaneously; Kahl wounds Matthews fatally with two shots to the chest and Matthews kills Kahl with a bullet to the head. Hall and Fitzpatrick, unsure of what has happened, begin firing wildly, striking Matthews with buckshot. Matthews manages to get to a police cruiser before collapsing, and gasps, “I got him.” But the other officials are unsure if Kahl is actually dead, and if others may be in the house as well. They open fire on the house and let loose a barrage of tear gas. They then set the house afire with a can of diesel fuel; the fire ignites several thousand rounds of ammunition stored inside the house and the house is all but gutted by the conflagration. Eventually, officials are able to enter the house and find what remains of Kahl’s body in the kitchen. Posse Comitatus leader William Potter Gale, asked by a reporter about Kahl’s death, says that Kahl was murdered for helping farmers and belonging to the group. Another Posse member, Richard Wayne Snell, will later claim that Matthews had been killed by FBI agents after interrupting them during their torture of Kahl. (Southern Poverty Law Center 12/2001; Levitas 2002, pp. 217-220; Anti-Defamation League 2011)
Episode Destabilizes Posse Comitatus - The Kahl episode receives national attention and helps destabilize the Posse Comitatus (see 1984). The media quickly learns of Kahl’s racist and anti-Semitic past, and reprints a letter he wrote the same night he killed the marshals and later sent to reporters. In his letter, Kahl announced that it was time to begin killing Jews: “We are engaged in a struggle to the death between the people of the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Satan. We are a conquered and occupied nation; conquered and occupied by the Jews, and their hundreds or maybe thousands of front organizations doing their un-Godly work. They have two objectives in their goal of ruling the world. Destroy Christianity and the White race. Neither can be accomplished by itself, they stand or fall together.” In an attempt to exonerate his son and Faul, Kahl took credit for all the fatal shots. Kahl’s espousal of violence and anti-Semitism causes a backlash when some Posse Comitatus members attempt to portray him as a martyr. (Southern Poverty Law Center 12/2001; Levitas 2002, pp. 217-220)
Richard Wayne Snell, a right-wing extremist who helped concoct plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1983 (see 1983), is executed in prison some 12 hours after Timothy McVeigh detonates a fertilizer bomb outside that same building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Snell is affiliated with the far-right groups Aryan Nations (see Late 1987 - April 8, 1998) and the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, and has connections to the now-defunct violently extremist group The Order. Snell was convicted of two murders: the 1983 robbery and murder of Texarkana pawnbroker William Stumpp (whom Snell wrongly believed was Jewish), and the shooting death of a black state trooper, Louis Bryant, who in 1984 pulled Snell over for a traffic violation near De Queen, Arkansas; Snell shot Bryant as he approached his vehicle, then shot him to death as he lay on the ground. (In his trial, Snell argued that he killed Bryant in self-defense.) He fled the scene of Bryant’s murder and was chased to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, where he was wounded and subdued by officers. In his car, those officers found the gun Snell used to murder Stumpp. Snell now terms himself a “prisoner of war.” Right-wing paramilitary groups have protested his execution, calling him a “patriot,” and term the federal government “the Beast.” Snell, who has published a periodic white supremacist newsletter, “The Seekers,” was the focus of a March 1995 issue of another organization’s newsletter, the Montana Militia, which reminded its readers that Snell’s execution was set for April 19, stating: “If this date does not ring a bell for you then maybe this will jog your memory. 1. April 19, 1775: Lexington burned; 2. April 19, 1943: Warsaw burned; 3. April 19, 1992: The fed’s attempted to raid Randy Weaver, but had their plans thwarted when concerned citizens arrived on the scene with supplies for the Weaver family totally unaware of what was to take place (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992); 4. April 19, 1993: The Branch Davidians burned (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After); 5. April 19, 1995: Richard Snell will be executed—unless we act now!!!” The Montana Militia’s plan of action was to flood the Arkansas governor’s office with letters protesting Snell’s execution. Snell’s jailers later say that for the last four days, Snell has predicted something “big” would happen on the day of his execution (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). On his last day, Snell is allowed a visit by Elohim City founder Robert Millar (see 1973 and After), his “spiritual advisor,” where they watch the events of the Oklahoma City bombing unfold on television. Snell reportedly chuckles over the bombing, though Millar will say Snell is “appalled” by the reports. Snell’s last words are a threat directed to Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker (D-AR), as he is being strapped to a gurney for execution by lethal injection. “Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder,” Snell says. “Justice is coming. I wouldn’t trade places with you or any of your cronies. Hail the victory. I am at peace.” McVeigh will not mention Snell, and there is no evidence linking Snell or his colleagues to the Oklahoma City bombing. (Thomas and Smothers 5/20/1995; Stickney 1996, pp. 161-162; Graff, Cole, and Shannon 2/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Anti-Defamation League 8/9/2002) Snell’s widow will later say she has no reason to believe her husband had anything to do with the bombing. (Stickney 1996, pp. 271) Millar brings Snell’s body back to Elohim City for internment. (Serrano 1998, pp. 270)
Robert Millar, the 69-year-old leader of the militantly religious, white supremacist community Elohim City in eastern Oklahoma (see 1973 and After), tells New York Times reporters that he and his community had nothing to do with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995). The press has learned that some members of the Elohim City community may have devised the original Oklahoma City bomb plot (see 1983 and August 1994 - March 1995); McVeigh is suspected of having some ties with Elohim City community members (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, April 5, 1995, and April 8, 1995); and some sources claim federal agents were warned about the bombing from an informant in the community (see August 1994 - March 1995). Millar insists that no one in Elohim City knew who McVeigh was until they read about him in the papers. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him,” Millar says. “I don’t think he’s ever been in any of my audiences to the best of my knowledge. He may have gotten our telephone number from someone if he used our telephone number. And if he phoned here, nobody here has any knowledge of ever talking to him.” Newsweek has reported that McVeigh called someone in Elohim City two weeks before the bombing (see April 5, 1995). Asked by a reporter if he had heard of McVeigh, if McVeigh called or visited the community, and whether he condoned the bombing, Millar says, “No, no, no, and no.” To another reporter asking about McVeigh’s alleged visit, he replies, “I imagine that your unnamed government sources are manipulating you.” Millar served as a “spiritual advisor” to Richard Snell, who was executed the day of the bombing for murdering a state trooper and a shopkeeper in Arkansas (see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995). Asked if he continues to espouse the racist and anti-Semitic ideals that have marked his community for years, Millar produces a careful answer: “I think the least-gifted black person has divinely endowed intellectual and physical capabilities that the most sophisticated robot we can produce is not able to equal. So what I’m saying is, I think all of God’s creation is special and gifted and I’m not interested in denigrating or belittling or misusing any part of God’s creation. That should be a sufficient answer.” He portrays Elohim City as a small village of “less than 100 people” whose inhabitants desire to be left alone, have little money, and little need for money. The community supports itself, he says, on the labor of some of the men, who “do logging; they also haul hay for the neighbors.” District Attorney Dianne Barker Harrold tells reporters that she does not believe the community is a threat: “I have no reason to foresee any problems. They’ve been here 22 years, and there haven’t been any problems.” Millar also announces that his granddaughter Angela Millar is marrying James Ellison, the former leader of the now-defunct Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord. Ellison served a prison term for racketeering, and has claimed to have been involved in the 1983 Elohim City bomb plot (see 1983). (Verhovek 5/24/1995)
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