Glenn Beck spent a little while on his Fox News show yesterday explaining to his audience that law enforcement in Missouri shouldn't be concerned about right-wing extremists because the real problem is cop-killing parolees on the loose in Oakland, California.
Or something like that. It was hard to piece the argument together, but the nub of it seemed along those lines. First he went on at length about how the weekend's horrible shootout in Oakland, which left four police officers dead alongside the shooter/parolee, was another sign of things going to hell in California. OK, whatever. But then he makes the big leap:
Beck: Next, look at the government's priorities. This is an actual cop killer, who clearly wasn't rehabilitated. But the Missouri State Troopers now -- and wait until you hear the rest of the story, the update on this one coming up in a few minutes -- they're worried about militias.
Beck then goes on to mostly regurgitate last week's rant about a Missouri State Patrol intelligence report discussing the recent resurgence of militia activity in their neck of the woods specifically and in the country generally.
But as we reported then, the report (you can read it for yourself here) is in fact entirely factual, and simply a normative report giving an accurate profile of right-wing extremists' behavioral tendencies.
Beck added some new charges to his already dubious case:
Beck: Let's put this into perspective here: Our researchers couldn't find a single report of a single death specifically linked to a militia group, or an individual member of a militia, in over a decade. Yet an average of more than 150 officers die every year nationwide. Have you counted the number of dead police officers in Philadelphia? And militia numbers are reportedly down after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 -- seems it gave them a bad name. So why are militias getting so much attention from Missouri?
Well, it might just have something to do with the fact that, per square mile, the Ozarks have as rich a history of right-wing extremism as any section of the nation. And while they haven't been making news in recent years, the very report that Beck dismisses in fact details not just the decline of the militias after 1995, but also their current ongoing revival, particularly in the wake of Barack Obama's presidential victory.
Included in the report are such incidents as the Montana Project 7 gang, which was plotting to kill local police officers; a plot by Idaho militiamen to murder a federal judge; and the Alabama militiamen who were plotting to murder as many Hispanics as they could get away with in a shooting spree.
What all of these cases have in common, of course, is that in fact they were all potentially deadly situations all nipped in the bud. And how did that happen? Through effective local law-enforcement work that relied on intelligence-gathering like this.
Beck wants to fob this kind of activity off as disenfranchisement, but when it comes to these folks -- especially in places like rural Missouri -- it's something much deeper and much uglier. (Just read the above link to the piece about Ozark extremism to see what I mean.) So while he's busy showing off pictures of black cop killers from Oakland by way of attacking a police intelligence report in Missouri, I'd like to introduce to him to someone from Missouri.
Glenn Beck, please meet Timothy Thomas Coombs:
Here's what Coombs did back in 1994:
In 1994 authorities in McDonald County raided the Sacerdotal Order of the David Company and were stunned at what they found.
Stockpiled inside the compound were weapons, ammunition and dynamite. The group's leader, Pastor Robert Joos, claimed the weapons were meant for trading.
Unfortunately for Joos, authorities didn't see it his way. Police say the religious leader forged an illegal court document and served it to a Missouri State Trooper.
When authorities went to his compound to arrest Joos, cops say he put up a fight and had to be maced. Joos was released from jail in April of 1997, but one member of his militant group vowed revenge---that man was Timothy Coombs.
Investigators say that on the evening of September 16, 1994, Timothy Coombs went to the home of the man who busted his friend and religious leader.....Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Bobby Harper.
Harper, who was recovering from liver transplant surgery, was making a bowl of ice cream when he was shot sniper-style through the kitchen window of his McDonald County home. The bullet ripped through his stomach and newly transplanted liver.
The Trooper's 12-year old daughter, who was standing near him when he was shot, wasn't hurt in the attack.
Yes, you say. This was back in 1994. But Coombs is in fact still at large.
Indeed, right-wing extremists -- not just militiamen, but their more virulent cousins, the white supremacists -- are still a potent presence in Missouri. See, for instance, the ADL's reported activity in Missouri just in 2009:
In recent years, there have in fact been killings in Missouri (not to mention elsewhere) associated with the extremist right: A white supremacist who stomped to death a man he thought was Jewish. A white supremacist who stabbed his African-American co-worker to death. Five men charged in a brutal, racially motivated assault. You get the idea.
And it's particularly a challenge for law enforcement, who face special risks from right-wing extremists that we know about:
Law enforcement officers have many safety concerns, ranging from domestic disputes to belligerent drunk drivers, and they will likely face those situations far more often than situations involving extremists, who by their nature are a minority of the population.
Nevertheless, officers need to be alert to possible encounters with extremists and the safety issues involved. Even if members of hate groups are less common than spouse abusers, officers will eventually encounter them. Generally speaking, extremist criminals pose all the same risks to officer safety as other criminals. However, because of their beliefs, extremist criminals also pose additional risks and concerns.
Three particular factors underscore the importance of officer safety when dealing with extremists.
* First, law enforcement officers are often the people most likely to confront extremists who have committed criminal acts.
* Second, criminals motivated by extremism very often act in distinctly different ways than criminals motivated by traditional motives such as greed or anger.
* Third, for a variety of reasons, extremist criminals may often specifically target law enforcement officers.
It's true that in the past eight years, while going mostly into hibernation, the violent side of right-wing extremists has been largely dormant. But it's worth remembering what occurred in the 1990s, when they were very active:
* June 1994: White supremacist Robert Joos is charged with resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon following a traffic stop confrontation with Missouri State Highway Patrol officers.
* July 1994: Steven Garrett Colbern is pulled over in a traffic stop in Upland, California, but resists arrest and has to be subdued by five officers. His car is found to contain an assault rifle, a silencer, and a part necessary to convert the rifle to full automatic file (he is later briefly thought to be the John Doe #2 sought after in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation).
* October 1994: A routine traffic stop of three Michigan militia activists near Fowlerville, Michigan, uncovers loaded three semi-automatic rifles, four other guns, armor-piercing ammunition, and night vision goggles. The militiamen are arrested but never show up in court for their trial (later, one of the fugitives allegedly murders another one).
* Early 1995: Tim Hampton is charged with assaulting a police officer near Dallas, Texas, over an incident that occurred at a traffic stop.
* May 1995: James Boran is pulled over because of outstanding traffic warrants in Massachusetts. Boran refuses to exit his van and instead drives away. After his path is blocked, he continues his escape on foot, barricading himself in his apartment. After he finally surrenders, police find bombmaking materials and militia manuals.
* June 1995: Michael Hill, a militia and common law court activist in Ohio, is shot and killed by a Frazeysburg, OH, police officer after pulling a gun on the officer during a traffic stop.
* October 1995: Donald Lee Smith, of Cherokee County, Georgia, is pulled over for a traffic stop, resists arrest and is found to be in possession of a concealed assault weapon.
* November 1995: "Sovereign citizen" Reinaldo A. DeJesus of White Creek, New York, is arrested for numerous traffic and vehicle charges, and two charges of resisting arrest, following a traffic stop for a burned-out headlight.
* January 1996: Larry Martz, a militia and common law court activist in Ohio, attacks a Highway Patrol trooper during a traffic stop near Cambridge, OH. Martz had 23 weapons in his truck.
* February, 1996: Washington militia leader Bruce Alden Banister is pulled over for expired license tabs. The confrontation which follows ends with him eventually convicted of third-degree assault of a police officer and resisting arrest.
* August 1996: Kim Lee Bonsteel of Franklin, North Carolina, is convicted on 18 charges stemming from a 1994 incident in which he led law enforcement officers on a chase through three counties after he refused to produce his driver’s license or get out of his truck at a traffic stop. The chase destroyed several patrol cars, injured three officers, and caused a sheriff’s deputy to die of a heart attack.
* January 1997: A routine traffic stop involving skinhead and militia leader Johnny Bangerter of Utah turns into a chase and brief standoff at a trailer park.
* February 1997: Cheyne and Chevie Kehoe engage Ohio law enforcement officers in two well-publicized gun battles following a traffic stop in Wilmington, Ohio.
* March 1997: Aryan Nations member Morris Gulett rams a police cruiser during a chase following an attempt to pull him over for going the wrong way down a one-way street. Gulett claimed he drover away because he did not have a drivers’ license and he "was just in one of those moods." One week earlier, another Ohio Aryan Nations member was arrested following a traffic stop during which police found that he had a loaded handgun stuffed in a beer carton.
* August 1997: In New Hampshire, Carl Drega is stopped near a supermarket in Colebrook, New Hampshire, because of the rust holes in his pickup. Drega opens fire on the state trooper, killing him, then kills his partner as well. Drega then drives into town and kills two more people before fleeing into Vermont, where he has a final gun battle with police there. He dies, but not before injuring three more officers.
* September 1997: Craig and Doug Brodrick, two brothers who had recently moved to Boise, are stopped for failing to signal. They begin a gun battle which results in their own deaths as well as the death of a Boise police officer and the wounding of another.
If they become active again, these kinds of incidents will return. Glenn Beck may weep for Ron Paul bumper-sticker owners. The rest of us will weep for the widows of the police officers killed by the violent nutcases Beck wants you to forget about. When he's not busy promoting them and their conspiracy theories, that is.