(ND) Memories of gunfight still linger after 20 years


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Drizzt
February 12, 2003, 06:37 PM
The Associated Press State & Local Wire

February 8, 2003, Saturday, BC cycle

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 964 words

HEADLINE: Memories of gunfight still linger after 20 years

BYLINE: By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press Writer

DATELINE: HEATON, N.D.

BODY:
Someone still remembers.

A set of footprints leads to Gordon Kahl's snow-covered grave, adorned with freshly planted plastic flowers that struggle against a bitter wind.

It's been 20 years since Kahl was buried in this town where he grew up and farmed. And people around these parts can't forget what put him here for good. On Feb. 13, 1983, a gunfight erupted 60 miles south on a rural highway in Medina, south of Heaton in central North Dakota. When it ended, two U.S. marshals were dead.

Kahl was a member of the Posse Comitatus, a militant, anti-tax, anti-Semitic group that recognized no power higher than county government. He served time in federal prison for refusing to pay income tax. After his release, he still refused to pay taxes or report to his probation officer, violating his probation.

In 1981, the government seized some of his land to pay off back taxes. He vowed to fellow farmers and family there would be trouble if the feds crossed his path again.

They did at dusk, on a Sunday in February two years later, when they came to arrest Kahl for violating his probation.

Kahl and about a dozen other tax protesters, including Kahl's wife, Joan, and eldest son, Yorie, met at a clinic in Medina, about 80 miles east of Bismarck.

Afterward, Yorie, his mother and two others left in one car. Kahl was in another vehicle with Scott Faul, known for driving his tractor in the fields with an AR-15 assault rifle at his side.

Six U.S. marshals and local police set up a roadblock. There was a standoff. Shots were fired. A hail of automatic gunfire lasted less than a minute.

Reo Fandrich was feeding his cows when the guns went off across a lake from his farm.

"It sounded like there was an explosion in the cheese factory," Fandrich said. "I grabbed the wife and told her to come out and listen, and then it died. And so did everything else around here."

Now, said Fandrich, an auto mechanic, "The town just wants to forget."

U.S. Marshals Robert Cheshire Jr., 32, and Kenneth Muir, 53, were killed. Deputy Sheriff Bradley Kapp's trigger finger was blown off. Medina police officer Steven Schnable was hit in the leg. Deputy Marshal James Hopson was hit in the head.

Yorie Kahl was shot in the stomach. Gordon Kahl took his wounded son back to Dr. Clarence Martin's clinic in a stolen police car, then left. A nationwide hunt for him began.

The end came for Kahl that June, in another shootout at a farm in Smithville, Ark.

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Matthews and Kahl both died in the gunbattle.

Yorie Kahl and Faul later were convicted of murder and assault. Both are serving life sentences.

Weapons were part of Gordon Kahl's life. A B-25 tailgunner in World War II, he was credited with shooting down 10 enemy aircraft on 57 bombing missions.

After the war, he married Joan and gave his new bride a 20-guage shotgun as a wedding gift. They had six children. He was 63 when he died.

Kahl was twice wounded in the war and was given a chestful of medals. His name is inscribed on one of 1,010 bricks at a veterans memorial in Dawson, west of Medina.

"He's among a lot of his friends," said Russell Kleppe, one of the memorial coordinators and a World War II veteran.

Virgil Kramlich of Medina said Kahl's anti-government views appealed to many farmers, who had been - and still are - dealing with a difficult economy.

"A lot of farmers around here listened to what he had to say about saving our farms, but he went about it the wrong way," Kramlich said.

Kramlich said he and about 60 other locals attended one of the first meetings of the Posse Comitatus but were turned off by the display of weapons.

Only a handful showed up at subsequent meetings, he said.

"Everyone around here has a gun in their pickup window. But nobody carried them up and down the town like they did," Kramlich said of the Posse members.

"They carried their guns around right out in the open and made no qualms about it," he said.

"Nobody bothered them until that day."

Medina's population slid from about 500 in 1980 to 335 in 2000, according to U.S. Census figures.

Kahl's hometown of Heaton once had about 100 people, but now the number has dwindled to about a dozen. Most of the homes and businesses are boarded up and silent. Deer walk confidently through the middle of town.

Kramlich, who owns a butcher shop and meat locker in Medina, used to farm until times got bad and a bank foreclosed on his property. He suspects only 20 percent of the farms in his area have survived since Kahl's death.

"A lot of young farmers around here are barely scraping by," he said. But he does not believe the situation will escalate to bloodshed.

"Nobody around here or anywhere likes paying taxes, but we realize we have to, for schools and roads and whatever," Kramlich said. "Nobody I know condones what Gordon Kahl did."

Lynn Crooks, a now-retired U.S. attorney involved in the Kahl case, said the Posse, and tax protesters in general, have disappeared into the woodwork.

Kahl was a martyr to the Posse and a folk hero to some. T-shirts and bumper stickers eulogized him. Books and songs were written about him and a TV movie was made.

Crooks said Kahl was nothing more than a murderer.

"There isn't anything to remember about the fellow other than he murdered cops and had associates that helped him do it," Crooks said.

Deputy Kapp is still on the job, 20 years after part of his hand was blown off in the Medina shootout.

"I'll never forget it," Kapp said. "It doesn't bother me and it never has."

Kapp sees one reason not to forget what happened on that prairie road 20 years ago.

"I think it should be remembered for the marshals that died that day," he said. "The other side, I don't care about."

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CZ-75
February 12, 2003, 07:24 PM
I've seen the guy portrayed as anti-semitic, and perhaps he was. I have only media and the govt. to verify this.

There are still two ways about this, even if he was. The first was that he was a violent anti-semite bent on killing all Jews. Second, that he was just a farmer from ND who never even met a Jew and just reverted to the ignorant christian traditional prejudices against Jews as so-called "christ killers" and moneylenders, etc. and believed in ZOG, et al.

I wonder how much of this is really a smear campaign though. He opposed the government stealing what little money he and fellow farmers could take in (wonder if he accepted subsidies, though), then was jailed and his property taken. He was then released from prison and further harrassed. He decides to shoot it out with those performing an unlawful (unconstitutional) duty and kills them. Cut and dried. Notice please, how well his fellow farmers are doing today. Revolutions have been fought for less

Switch to Ruby Ridge. Randy Weaver, set up by BATF, has half his family killed and uses force to resist. He too, is a"murderer." Exonerated, but that was probably part of a deal cut to absolve the govt. of unlawful "shoot to kill" orders given.

Fast forward to sometime in the future, when guns are banned and armed collection details show up at gun owners' houses to force you to give up your rights. If you kill them, are you a "murderer"?

How easy it would be to go from being right and fighting to defend your rights and person from unlawful intrusions, to being a racist killer and anti-government nut with the proper spin applied.

BTW, I'm not trying to defend Kahl, but only wonder if they didn't try to bait him into this confrontation, then either fabricate or exagerate his beliefs to demonize him.

Gordon
February 13, 2003, 02:19 AM
I uh "knew" some local guys in the Posse Comitatas in the early 80's and there was never any anti semetic talk in the meetings. Me being a raving Zionist since the 70's I would have noticed that nicht wahr? There WAS some sort of tie in with some weird mid western Christian Identity preacher who WAS anti semetic(what a schmuck!) who was preaching about George Washington had a vision of US being defended from a Mid western square of states or some lunacy. I liked the tax rebellion part; I'll drive jeeps , put out my own fires, defend my own property and educate my own family and keep what I earn thank you. Run the Gov't on exise taxes and tarrifs (like it says in the Constitution) and SECURE the borders and DEFEND the homeland in which endevor I'll volunteer if you destroy the enemy and not let him walk and then pay him with my money to rebuild.....:fire: Gordon was so loved in the mid west that everybody hid him out when they called in National guard and went house to house in largest man hunt ever. How come they dont do that for terrorists ect? This rant could go on for ever as I would put flowers on his grave. Why were the jack booted thug marshalls trying to imprision him anyway? He was a warm up for Ruby ridge and Waco and he was MY wake up call.

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