Race Warriors

By the time gang leader Peter Langan was captured following a shoot-out in Columbus, Ohio last winter, the Midwest Bank Bandits had stolen a quarter of a million dollars from 22 banks in seven states. Most of that money has never been recovered. That scares a lot of seasoned law enforcement agents, because they know this gang is not what it seems at first glance.Although the Bandits fancied comparisons with romantic images of populist outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd, and self- consciously styled their cell after the Irish Republican Army, these men were bent on amassing capital for a far darker cause. Among themselves, they had a different name than the one tagged on them by pursuers and observers.They were soldiers of the Aryan Republican Army, and according to court documents and exhibits, their goal was a shooting war to "reclaim" this country for right-thinking white Christians.ARA is not the first bunch of far-right revolutionaries to take up arms in their search for redress of their grievances against what they call ZOG, the Zionist Occupation Government. Groups like The Order; Posse Comitatus; and The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) have put themselves forward over the last 15 years as martyrs to be emulated and followed into the bloody abyss.ARA was active for more than a year before the explosion that brought down the Murrah Office Building in Oklahoma City, and became even more daring after the arrest of Timothy McVeigh.Most media coverage portrayed the "Midwest Bank Bandits" exactly the way they wanted to be seen: as populists robbing banks to give to the poor. But the story which emerged during pre-trial investigations makes clear that bank robbery was just the means to an end: material support for the virulently racist Aryan Nation/Christian Identity political movements.With all four publicly identified members of the ARA either in custody or dead, and the trial of leader Peter Langan set to start next month in Columbus, the group seems ready to be relegated to the dust bin of history. But research suggests it may be too soon to breathe easy.The ARA might never have been more than a fantasy, had the Secret Service not decided to release Peter Langan from a Georgia jail in September 1993, in the mistaken belief that he had turned against his partner and longtime friend, Richard Guthrie.Langan and Guthrie had been indicted for the October 9, 1992 armed robbery of a Pizza Hut in Livonia, Georgia. Police had Guthrie's name almost from the beginning, but during their investigation a third name emerged: Pedro Gomez.The Georgia investigation also involved the Secret Service, because Guthrie was suspected of making threats on the life of then-President George Bush, who had been traveling through Georgia around the time of the Pizza Hut robbery.A month after the heist, federal agents got word that Gomez was in Cincinnati. Armed with a local police warrant, the Secret Service raided a Cincinnati home (which turned out to be Langan's) on a tip that Gomez was there. Langan answered the door, and when he acknowledged that he was Gomez, he was taken into custody.While searching the house where Langan lived with his girlfriend, Faith Ford, police found three illegal semi- automatic rifles, all belonging to Langan. They also seized a handgun, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and a dummy hand grenade.Langan waived extradition and was shipped off to Georgia. He remained there in a county jail until a deal was cut with the Secret Service at the end of August 1993. Langan gave a statement implicating Guthrie in the Pizza Hut robbery and agreed to testify against his partner. In exchange Langan would have all charges against him dropped, and would be set free to find Guthrie for the Secret Service.Langan, who had been meeting with a constitutional law study group in Cincinnati, told police in Georgia, "I've never belonged to any so-called political organizations or racist organizations, but I do have a lot of contacts."Langan's bail, which had been as high as $150,000, was lowered to $8,000 and he was not required to put up any cash. After being released into the arms of the Secret Service on September 2, 1993 Langan had his first and only meeting with the Secret Service agents in Georgia, who gave him $50 for meal money, a ticket to Cincinnati, and the phone number of a local Treasury Department agent. Back home, Langan moved back in with Ford but stayed with her for little more than two months. He had found Guthrie, but instead of turning him over to the government, Langan fled with him. Langan left without a word to his lover Ford, his kids, or his sister.According to court records Langan, now going by the name of Don McClure, moved to a "safehouse" in Pittsburg, Kansas. One defendant later defined a safehouse as "a place where the landlord doesn't know your real name." Langan also went back at least part-time to using the name Pedro, but now it was Commander Pedro, of the Aryan Republican Army.Their occupation also changed. No longer satisfied with robbing Pizza Huts, Guthrie and Langan decided to go where there was real money: banks.Court records show that during the next year they picked up fellow traveler Scott Stedeford, who was from the Philadelphia area. According to the warrant for Stedeford's arrest, he was introduced to Guthrie by Mark Thomas.Mark Thomas calls himself a two-seed minister, meaning he is ordained in both the Aryan Nations Church and the Christian Identity Church. Aryan Nations/Christian Identity faiths believe that northern Europeans are really God's chosen people. Jews are not only not the chosen ones, they are in league with Satan. Christian Identity politics are the backbone of most of the white hate and neo-Nazi groups in the U.S.The most famous group connected to Christian Identity is The Order. The group, led by Bob Matthews, pulled off a string of bank robberies and armored car heists in the Northwestern U.S. during the 1980s. They were also responsible for the 1984 assassination of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in Denver. Most of the money The Order stole was never recovered, and the loot was said to have been distributed to white supremacist groups. The Order was crushed in a shoot-out on an island in Washington state in 1984, where Matthews was killed in a firefight. Today, Mark Thomas operates the Christian Posse Comitatus out of his 12-acre compound in Berks County, Pennsylvania, near Allentown. The compound has been the site of Hitler Fests, and a magnet for a lot of troubled youths. Two young men, Bryan and David Freeman, found their way to the Thomas compound before 1995, according to their grandmother. The Freeman brothers subsequently killed their parents. No charges have been brought against Thomas for his involvement with the Freeman boys.Thomas is an admirer of both the Irish Republican Army- to which the name Aryan Republican Army is supposedly a tribute-and Pretty Boy Floyd. In a late 1993 newsletter, Thomas told his followers that Pretty Boy Floyd "was a Depression-era Bob Matthews who robbed banks who were robbing the farmers in the Midwest."Thomas's admiration for the IRA and Floyd may have escalated from words to actions. In the autumn of 1994, according to testimony given by Kevin McCarthy, he was recruited into the ARA.McCarthy at this time was living part-time at a Christian Identity compound in Elohim City, Oklahoma. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Elohim City has been mentioned in the Oklahoma City bombing case: Timothy McVeigh called the compound just days before the bombing. But all that was still months in the future when McCarthy sat down with Langan, Guthrie, Stedeford, and Thomas.To casual onlookers, that first meeting looked innocent: five white guys sitting around talking at the Waffle House in Van Buren, Arkansas, just across the Oklahoma state line. McCarthy knew Scott Stedeford and Mark Thomas, but had never met either Langan or Guthrie. Langan told McCarthy about their operation, and boasted to the 17- year-old that he had already participated in 12 bank robberies.After the Waffle House meeting, McCarthy next met the three revolutionaries in Joplin, Missouri. From then on, until his arrest in May, McCarthy was a member of the ARA, helping them rob six banks. He has now pled guilty to bank robbery, and is testifying against Langan.ARA's modus operandi was instructive: the group would buy a car for cash, then rob a bank in disguise, threatening to use an explosive device. They would often leave the bomb behind to help slow down the police. They would then abandon the car, again leaving behind an explosive device, and fade into the countryside, reassembling in Pittsburg. In the end they were even taunting the FBI by intentionally leaving behind little clues and renting cars in the names of their pursuers.In an effort have a larger impact, the group put together a recruiting videotape (see sidebar) that aims most of its venom at Jews. The hate-filled propaganda piece also takes on militia activists who are "all talk," calls for deportation of non-whites, and declares that "the revolution is upon us."Everything was going ARA's way until sometime in the latter half of 1995, when the group began to have internal disputes. Stedeford and McCarthy no longer wanted to work with Guthrie because he was making "mistakes." Guthrie was excluded from their last bank job, on December 9 in a suburb of Toledo. The Toledo robbery was McCarthy's sixth since joining the revolutionary group.Meanwhile the group decided to rent a second safehouse as part of a plan to begin robbing armored cars, just like The Order. Guthrie came to Columbus and, using the name Ray Marshall, rented the basement and first floor of a two- family house at 585 Rinehart, on the eastern edge of German Village, from Pearl and Harlan Bennett. "I wish all my tenants were like him," Pearl Bennett says. "He paid his rent early and he paid in cash."When it was time to pay the rent Guthrie would go to the Bennett's house and socialize with Harlan. Guthrie (as Marshall) told the Bennetts he "didn't trust banks." Harlan himself has a skepticism of newspapers, as he said on the stand: "Seventy-five percent of what you read in the newspapers is speculation." The men involved themselves in social conversations, according to Pearl Bennett.Because of his differences with the other ARA members, Guthrie began to commit bank robberies in the Cincinnati area by himself. At about the same time, federal agents who had been taunted by the group began to focus on Guthrie and Langan as targets of their investigation.On December 28, 1995 Secret Service and other federal agents descended on the Cincinnati home of Langan's sister, Leslie Maloney. Langan was not there, and Maloney had not seen him in more than two years. But the Secret Service knew that Langan had been involved in bank robberies.On January 2, an old friend of Guthrie and Langan, Shawn Kenney, identified the two in a photo lineup. The following Sunday, Kenney went to Maloney's house, where he had not visited in more than a year and half. Kenney's sudden appearance alerted Maloney, who told him he should contact the FBI because they had questioned her about Kenney's right-wing political connections. Kenney told Maloney that he had already been in contact with the agency.Finally, on January 15 the FBI staked out a Cincinnati restaurant. Guthrie was spotted at a phone booth near the restaurant, and a car chase ensued through local streets before Guthrie was cornered and captured.Almost from the first moment in police custody, Guthrie began to help federal agents find Langan. The revolution was falling apart.But Guthrie's help was begrudging. For two straight days Guthrie led FBI agents on a wild goose chase, leading them from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, back to Cincinnati, then to Indianapolis again, searching for Langan. Finally Guthrie admitted that Langan was not in Indianapolis, but he might be at the group's Columbus safehouse.On the night of January 17 agents from the Safe Streets Task Force, an inter-agency law enforcement team, staked out 585 Rinehart. They watched as a man went out to his van and back into the house, and were able to positively ID Langan.Guthrie told the agents that if they tried to take Langan in the house there would be "another Waco." The agents decided to wait until Langan got into his van behind the house.Just after 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, January 18, Langan got in his van. Immediately, agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshal's Office, and Franklin County Sheriff's Department descended on Langan. At first seeming to comply, Langan sat motionless, then suddenly scampered into the back of his truck.What happened next is in contention, except for one fact: Langan didn't fire any weapons, but the FBI peppered his van with more than 40 rounds. Miraculously, Langan escaped with fairly minor bullet wounds to his face and back. Langan's first words to the officers were that immortal revolutionary statement of principle, "I want to talk to a lawyer."At the hospital, nurses discovered that Langan had no pubic hair and that his toenails were painted pink.With Langan and Guthrie in jail, the other "revolutionaries," McCarthy and Stedeford, were apprehended in late May as Guthrie continued to talk.In a series of searches in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Kansas, agents found caches of weapons, ammunition, pipe-bombs, grenades, masks, false IDs, and various military equipment.In the end, Guthrie pled guilty to 19 charges of bank robbery and credit card fraud. Facing nearly 30 years, even with a plea bargain, Guthrie took his own life less than 10 days after the pleading. He left a suicide note for his family and his lawyer, the contents of which have not been released.The U.S. Marshal's office insists that Guthrie's death in the Kenton County jail in Covington, Kentucky was a suicide. Their chronology is that Guthrie's cell was checked at 5:22 a.m. On their next round at 6:06 a.m., officers found Guthrie hanging from an air vent by a sheet. The jail was in a lockdown, so no outsiders or other prisoners could have had contact with him.In the ARA recruiting videotape, the masked soldiers- one of whom was Guthrie himself-warn that traitors and informers will be killed.That morning as Leslie Maloney was driving to work, she was following an ambulance which turned onto the grounds of the Kenton County jail. She didn't know until later that day that her brother's main accuser was dead.But Guthrie's death didn't unravel the government's case. Another defendant, Kevin McCarthy, also has turned against his revolutionary brothers. McCarthy's testimony connects Langan to at least six of the robberies, and to the recruiting videotape. At the close of eight days of pre- trial hearings to suppress evidence in Langan's case, the government's case against the Aryan Republican Army looked solid.McCarthy says the group had only four members, so it would appear that the Aryan Republican Army has been crushed.Or has it? The involvement of Mark Thomas, the connection to Elohim City, the political views of the accused, and the pattern of their alleged crimes all suggest otherwise. Langan's denial that he had ever belonged to racist organizations and McCarthy's contention that there were only four in the group are both consistent with a strategic plan for racist holy war in the United States, called "leaderless resistance." That proposal has been gathering adherents for 34 years and has, many observers fear, fostered a movement capable of and intent upon a major domestic terrorism offensive.Aryan Nations and Ku Klux Klan leader Louis R. Beam Jr. popularized the strategy in a 1992 essay, tracing its origin to a former intelligence officer, Col. Ulius Louis Amoss, who was a prominent anti-communist in the 1950s. The idea then got a major boost from the Christian Identity leader Rev. Pete Peters, who touted the leaderless revolution strategy at a key October 1992 meeting of 160 "Patriots" and other white supremacists at Estes Park, Colorado. The strategy is at the core of Field Manual Section One: Principles Justifying the Arming and Organizing of A Militia, published in 1994 by Wisconsin's Free Militia and used now throughout the country.Writing just days after the Oklahoma City explosion, researcher Tom Burghardt called the bombing "almost a textbook case" of the "leaderless resistance" strategy in the service of a movement that "is racist and fascist to the core." He added, "...it was hardly the work of 'crazed' individuals. These were people who were trained, organized, and motivated to carry out a monstrous act of political revenge."Burghardt also pointed out why the strategy is so successful, and therefore so dangerous: "...these organizations contain within their essential structure the plausible deniability necessary to protect leadership cadres from prosecution."Louis Beam spelled out another advantage of the decentralized cells: "the ability to blend in the public's eye the more committed groups of resistance with the mainstream 'kosher' (sic) associations that are generally seen as harmless."And true to Beam's call for cells that "operate independently and never report to a central headquarters," there are other groups operating in a very similar fashion, including The Phineas Priesthood in Washington state. Like the ARA, they are fascinated with explosives. Since April, The Phineas Priesthood has twice robbed the same Spokane area bank, using the bombings of a newspaper and an abortion clinic as diversions to tie up police while they hit the bank. Which leads to a deeply disquieting thought: the Feds have confiscated a lot of weapons, and a lot of racist and anti-Semitic propaganda, in a lot of states during their investigations into these armies of hate.But where did all that money go? CGSIDEBAR: The Gang That Couldn't Think StraightAny doubt about the politics of the Aryan Republican Army is dispelled by the group's recruiting video. The nearly two-hour-long tape calls for the extermination of Jews, the establishment of racial purity on the North American continent through ethnic cleansing, the deportation of minority group members, and the assassination of race traitors.The tape, seized from the group's Columbus "safehouse," was introduced into evidence at Peter Langan's evidence suppression hearing.The first scene shows a "war room" with an Irish flag draped across the front of a desk while the Irish song "Patriot Game" plays in the background. As the primitive soundtrack proclaims "the love of one's country is a terrible thing," superimposed on the screen are the words "Aryan Republican Army Presents The Armed Struggle Underground," followed by "Today-USA, Tomorrow-The World."The first figure who speaks introduces himself as "Commander Pedro." Kevin McCarthy, a member of ARA who turned state's evidence, has identified the speaker as Peter Langan. In his speech, Langan invokes the Bible as the moral authority for his revolutionary actions and his anti-Semitic and racist views.Displaying a photo of government officials including President Bill Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, and FBI director Louis Freeh, Langan announces that the people pictured had already been tried and sentenced to either exile or death.A number of important readings are identified in the tape, including The Silent Brotherhood, a favorable look at the far-right terrorist group The Order; The Turner Diaries, a Neo-Nazi fantasy of armed struggle against the United States; The Vigilantes of Christendom, a blueprint for an Aryan Republic; and Mein Kampf, Adolf Hilter's classic treatise on fascism.The anti-Semitic language used in the tape goes far beyond calling Jews "hymies" or "kikes": paper money is called "Jewish toilet paper," and the federal government is said to be controlled by ZOG, the Zionist Occupation Government, and ultimately by "the Jew World Order." Langan also states that Jews are "members of the synagogue of Satan."Other segments extoll the virtues of particular pieces of military equipment like the HK-91/7.62 and the Ruger Mini-14 rifles, the Light Anti-tank Weapon System (LAWS), and 200-channel police scanners.In an attempt to break the tedium of the diatribe, ARA inserted fake commercials, in the style of Saturday Night Live, for fictitious products like Blammo Ammo and Second Chance bulletproof vests. Using a voice-over, the video shows clips from made-for-television movies to make rhetorical points about the FBI/ATF attack on the Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993.At least twice during the video Langan talks about the hardship of being a revolutionary, saying he misses Mrs. Commander Pedro, Pedro Jr., and his nieces and nephews.While praising the militia movement, the ARA also takes a number of swipes at it. Militia members are referred to as "chanters," brave enough to talk big and practice with guns but not brave enough to actually take up armed struggle.McCarthy testified that the tape was started after he joined the group in December 1994, and work on it continued for several months. About 45 minutes into the video there is a discussion about "recent" attacks on three abortion clinics. The reference is to John Salvi, whose December 1994 shooting rampage killed two people and wounded five more. Proudly, the hooded ARA soldiers claim that Salvi must have been listening to their previous voice tapes. -Michael Weber

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