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Gordon Wendell KAHL

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: "Tax Protestor"
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: February 13/June 3, 1983
Date of birth: January 8, 1920
Victims profile: U.S. Marshal Kenneth Muir and Deputy Marshal Robert Chesire / Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Matthews
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: North Dakota/Arkansas, USA
Status: Killed in shoot-out with police, June 3, 1984
 
 

 
 

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Gordon Wendell Kahl (1920 - June 3, 1983) is best known for his involvement in two fatal shootouts with law enforcement officers in the United States in 1983.

Raised on a North Dakota farm, Kahl was a highly decorated turret gunner during World War II. After the war, "he had a 400-acre farm near Heaton, ND, [but] bounced around the Texas oilfields in later life as a mechanic and general worker."

In 1967, Kahl wrote a letter to the Internal Revenue Service stating that he would no longer pay taxes to the, in his words, "Synagogue of Satan under the 2nd plank of the Communist Manifesto." During the 1970s, Kahl organized the first Texas chapter of the Posse Comitatus, although he later left the group and was not a member at the time of the 1983 shootouts.

In 1976 he appeared on a Texas television program stating that the income tax was illegal and encouraging others not to pay their income taxes. A 1991 movie based on these events was called In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas, starring actor Rod Steiger.

Criminal conviction and prison

On November 16, 1976, Kahl was charged with willful failure to file Federal income tax returns for the years 1973 and 1974, under 26 U.S.C.  7203. He was found guilty, and was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of $2,000.

However, one year of the sentence was suspended, as was the fine. The court placed Kahl on a five year probation. Kahl appealed his conviction, but the conviction was affirmed in 1978 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, after Kahl's release from prison on probation. Kahl served eight months in prison in 1977.

Activity after prison

Following his parole from prison, Kahl become active in the "township" movement, an early version of the "sovereign citizenship" belief which later became well known because of the Montana Freemen standoff. This movement sought to form parallel courts and governments purportedly based on English Common Law, and to withdraw recognition of the U.S. federal government. Township movement supporters as well as the Posse Comitatus attempted to organize among farmers in the American Midwest during the early 1980s farm crisis.

The Medina, North Dakota incident

On February 13, 1983, because of an alleged parole violation, U.S. Marshals attempted to arrest Kahl as he was leaving a meeting of township supporters in Medina, North Dakota. In the car with Kahl were his wife Joan, his son Yorie, and three others who had been at the meeting.

The conflict began when federal marshals created a road block and began firing at the family and wounded Kahl's son. Everyone disembarked from the car and Kahl began to shoot back. During the ensuing shootout, Kahl shot and killed two United States marshals. Kahl then took the vehicle of a Medina law enforcement officer and fled to Arkansas.

The Smithville, Arkansas killings

A tip was received by authorities from the youngest daughter of the owner of the 'Bunker' home of a man named Leonard Ginter, where Kahl was hiding in Smithville, Arkansas. Another shootout ensued on June 3, 1983, in which Kahl and Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Matthews were killed. Ginter was arrested and convicted of harboring a fugitive, and was sentenced to a federal prison.

Yorie Kahl and Scott Faul received prison sentences on charges in regard to the Medina shootout; Joan Kahl was acquitted.

References

  • Corcoran, James: Bitter Harvest (1990) (ISBN 0-14-009874-7)

  • Graf, Darrell and Steve Schnabel: It's All About Power (1999) (ISBN 0-942323-31-9)

  • Turner, Capstan and A.J. Lowery: There Was a Man (1986) (ISBN 0-9614465-0-1)


The Uncensored Gordon Kahl Story

In 1968, Tax Protestor Gordon Kahl stopped filing IRS 1040 Income Tax Returns. For 9 years thereafter, the IRS ignored him, but in 1977 after Gordon Kahl spoke on an evening radio talk show regarding the illicitness of the income tax, some 250 phone calls would come into the radio station over the next two days; either supporting Kahl in some aspect, or pledging never to file another tax return.

And with that, the IRS came down on Kahl like a ton of bricks. They quickly assembled a case against him and two weeks later threw a criminal prosecution against him for violating Title 26, Section 7203 ["Willful Failure to File"]. Gordon Kahl was a low-income farmer not even meeting minimal statutory standards for threshold income levels achieved before being required to file 1040s, but that was not about to stop the IRS, who is good at changing the facts by creating facts.

Convicted and incarcerated, when out of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary on parole, Kahl left the Texas judicial district he was confined to by claiming that some aspect of the Restriction Orders was defective. He soon moved to North Dakota -- and there, he met his fate. A criminal Summons issued from a Federal Court in Midland, Texas was served on Gordon Kahl on August 8, 1980, charging him with a misdemeansor. Gordon Kahl responded by informing the Court that he would not be appearing, and the matter was allowed to be deferred until March 31, 1982, when the Justice Department obtained a Federal Arrest Warrant citing his parole violation.

Then, that Warrant was held up again until July 26, 1982, some 16 months later, when it was sent to the U.S. Marshals Office in Fargo, North Dakota on February 13, 1983. The United States Marshals and the Federal Court in Texas knew of his whereabouts in North Dakota at all times. After a two and one half year delay in the case, the fact that there was a "problem" controlling the prosecution of the case is self-evident.

If that chronology had been published in the New York Times in the context of discussing some other unfortunate incidents that had happened, it would be referred to, very defensively of the Government of course, as mere "bureaucratic bungling," in an attempt to discredit the obvious interposition of the "Lateness of the Hour" operating against the Government to bar the legitimacy of their management of the case.

Once again Gordon Kahl had attracted the attention of the United States Government. With the personality known as Ronald Reagan acquiescing indifferently as President, and with William French Smith sitting as Attorney General, the word came down the pipeline to GET RID OF GORDON KAHL, and the stage was set for the kind of confrontation the Feds wanted.

A violent attack was planned against Gordon Kahl at his farmhouse, and it was going to be well publicized. The attack would be in the form of a roadblock, it would be in the evening hours, and it would occur in a remote rural area. The timing of the attack in February of 1983 was selected to coincide with the trials of other related criminal prosecutions then going on that would be favorably tipped towards the Government, as the Juries were exposed to what would be surfacing visibly on the news as the Gordon Kahl "incident."

From his farm in Heaton, North Dakota, both Gordon Kahl, along with his neighbors, and the Chief of Police of Medina, North Dakota, Darrell Graff, all had received several advanced notices that the United States Marshals were planning a very unpleasant reception for Gordon Kahl, and in the case of Darrell Graff, he was told bluntly to stay out of it.

Rather than meet his adversaries face-to-face to settle the grievance at that lower level, Gordon Kahl improvidently ignored the gathering storm and tossed aside the Warrant, thus giving his adversaries the benefit of intensifying the impending confrontation into an elevated status -- a level that originates out of the barrel of a gun, where the Feds were quite likely to prevail. Although that did not give the United States Marshals the right to come out first and shoot Kahl, it does however require that other people in difficult positions with juristic authorities facing contemplated extermination itself, should not replicate Gordon Kahl's modus operandi.

On the 14th of February, 1983, Gordon Kahl, accompanied by his wife and son Yori, left a meeting in a Medina, North Dakota commercial district and headed home. Gordon Kahl was under surveillance and he knew it. He could have been picked up at the meeting, but the Feds had a surprise for him and wanted the remoteness of a rural environment. His son Yori detected something adverse and dangerous in the air, and so he took his father's jacket and cap and wore those on himself on the ride home that afternoon.

Not far from his farmhouse a roadblock had been set up by U.S. Marshal Kenneth Muir. It was a very unusual roadblock in that it had an ambulance and firetruck waiting there. Yes, there was going to be some trouble. The Marshal had not come to arrest, but to murder. Bringing neither the Arrest Warrant, nor any identification, Deputy Muir brought his gun and orders to terminate Gordon Kahl.

Arriving at the roadblock, Gordon's son, Yori Kahl, fled the pickup truck and ran to a nearby telephone pole for cover. Thinking that Yori was his dad Gordon, Marshal Muir opened the shooting by firing several shots at Yori.

Yori did not fall to the ground quick enough to satisfy the killer Marshal, so Marshal Muir kept on shooting until Yori fell. After spending a while at the hospital, Yori Kahl would actually survive to be charged with murder, and later convicted by a jury in a Star Chamber that was highly pressured by the U.S. Marshals and had numerous other fatal irregularities that would never survive reversal on appeal.

Back at the evening roadblock, after seeing his own son cut down by Marshal Muir, Gordon Kahl grabbed a gun and let Marshal Muir have it, killing him and Deputy Marshal Robert Chesire. Injured was Deputy Marshal James Hopson.

Staying in the background, looking at all of this shooting and profanity being thrown about, was Chief Darrell Graff of the Medina Police Department, who was told in advance that Kahl was going to buy the farm, and that he was to stay out of it. Gordon went over to the telephone pole, dragged his son Yori, white with blood loss and bleeding profusely, over to an unmarked police car, drove him to a hospital back in Medina, and then as a thick fog quickly settled in on the Fargo countryside, Gordon Kahl sped away into the night.

Soon, a swarm of military stormtroopers descended on Fargo, in military clothing and using military trucks [see Time Magazine ["Dakota Dragnet"], page 25 (February 28, 1983)]. They were on search and destroy orders. Gordon Kahl was immediately placed on the FBI's ten most wanted list, and was the subject of the most intensive fugitive search in the history of the FBI. It was a massive operation.

A tight clampdown was put out in North Dakota, accompanied with extensive random stops of motor vehicles, but nothing ever turned up. For Gordon Kahl, thousands of armed forces were called into search the surrounding North Dakota countryside. Every available private bounty hunter known to the FBI was hired and put on the case, but fugitive Gordon Kahl slipped through it all.

In comparison to what they can do when they feel like it, it is worthwhile noting how J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI never showed any such interest in capturing unknown fleeing killers when President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

No roadblocks, no dragnets, no manhunts, no searching -- nothing but CIA agents carrying Secret Service credentials restraining people from approaching the grassy knoll for about 10 minutes.

For the next three months, Gordon Kahl had found a home with some friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ginter, and a Mr. Russell, who kept moving him quietly from house to house. It was rather obvious to anyone that if he was ever found, he would be killed immediately.

In time, Mr. Russell's daughter, Karen Russell Robertson, noticed that her father was hiding Gordon Kahl. Possessed with First Person evidence ["I saw...," "I heard..."], she in turn went to the FBI and spilled the beans. She was given $25,000 and the promise of immunity from prosecution [see the New York Times ["Arkansans Guilty in Tax Rebel Case"], page A19 (October 19, 1983)].

The rural house where Gordon Kahl was staying was placed under FBI surveillance; but the results were inconclusive. On the morning of June 4th, a special FBI team of animals and savage killers [which is no exaggeration], known as the FBI SWAT TEAM, left their home base in Washington, D.C. and flew into Lawrence County, Arkansas on a private FBI jet. There, they were met by local FBI agents, other FBI agents, the Arkansas State Police, the Sheriff of Lawrence County, Arkansas, his deputies, and a confluence of United States Marshals assembled from across the country. Several Marshals invited to the Kahl execution operation arrived too late and missed it.

Later in the afternoon, it all began. The quiet, isolated and remote house was cordoned off, roadblocks were set up, and all without Gordon Kahl detecting anything amiss. Soon that afternoon, Mr. Ginter left the house alone and he was stopped down the road. He claimed his wife, Norma Ginter, was in the house alone. Now, the house where Gordon Kahl was living was more closely surrounded, and Sheriff Gene Matthews went to the front door to remove Mrs. Ginter from the scene.

With her out of the way, the FBI started open shooting, and saturated the house with bullets; but the earth shelter house was made with concrete walls and Gordon Kahl survived through it all without a scratch. The 36 year old local Sheriff, Gene Matthews, was killed incidental to the FBI siege on the Gordon Kahl hideout.

After a while, as the firing stopped, the FBI cordoned off the house for themselves while the Delta Force animals converged on the house like starved panthers going for a piece of meat. They found Gordon Kahl alive and well inside the home, hiding behind the refrigerator. He was taken to the living room, thrown on the floor, and was worked over with the butt end of their rifles. While numerous bones were being fractured and his teeth were being smashed in, other members of Delta Force went on a rampage in the house, smashing pictures and the television set, over-turning furniture, a copier, and taking a fireman's axe and chopping up a bookshelf.

While Gordon Kahl was pinned to the floor by the 6 to 8 Delta Force panthers, still under attack from the gun butts, the FBI agent with the fireman's axe turned to Gordon Kahl himself and chopped off his hand. Then he went around and chopped off Gordon Kahl's other hand, and then both of his feet were severed. While screaming with pain and with blood gushing out profusely over the floor where his hands and feet used to be, Gordon Kahl was shot in the head at close range, killing him.

A local Deputy Sheriff was given the honor of removing the bullet from Gordon Kahl's head [later that week, the deputy would tell a neighbor that he had not eaten in three days]. When local people viewed Gordon Kahl's dismembered body, they became nauseous and sick, stating that the man they just hacked apart was not Gordon Kahl, but Mr. William Wade, who was the owner of the land and resembled Gordon Kahl closely in age and appearance, and was well known to the Sheriff and others personally.

There was confusion; immediately there was trouble. A massive series of roadblocks were erected again, and the thorough searching of all automobiles over a wide radius was started; it was believed that Gordon Kahl had slipped out once again.

Local residents monitoring the operation on the police radio band heard a call made for some gasoline to be delivered to the house. Now that the murder of Gordon Kahl had been botched, the Feds were going to cover their own tracks and torch the place. The Delta Force animals left the place with extensive blood stains covering their clothes and took the private FBI jet back to Washington.

The roadblocks were called off when Mr. Wade, the owner of the land, showed up in town alive and well. The body of Sheriff Matthews was taken to a local hospital, while later in the evening after the fire the Feds had set had died down, the charred body of Gordon Kahl was taken to the local coroner.

The dismembered body was later identified as being that of Gordon Kahl. But the bodies and the house were only lightly charred, since the house was fabricated from cast concrete walls and the fire never got that intense. The corpse identified as being Gordon Kahl's was missing teeth, hands, and feet, had a bullet hole in the head (without a bullet), and was extensively covered with tissue bruises and fractured bones. It was very shocking and disgusting, as people who saw photographs of Gordon Kahl's charred remains, taken by the coroner, reported a stark and terrified look on his charred face; he had died in extreme terror, screaming violently from the pain. They had gotten their man.

The man who was Director of the FBI at the time that this murder operation was being performed, was William Webster. He personally supervised it. And when you get to know William Webster very well, you will become acquainted with a great murderer.

Gordon Kahl was later buried with military honors -- whatever that meant.

His wife back in North Dakota received several mean and ugly death threats from the Feds to keep quite or be murdered herself. Meanwhile, the rest of the country went on like Alice strolling through Wonderland; believing that all was well and that the Federal Government is your trusted friend, and that some little Tax Protestor over there got what he deserved.

Back in Arkansas, while shifting through the smoldering ruins in the kitchen, a reporter for the New York Times accompanied by Ray Wade, the land owner's son, found Gordon Kahl's left foot that had been severed off by the axe.

It was taken to the local coroner Dr. Fahmy Malak in Little Rock, confirmed as being Gordon Kahl's sliced off foot. However, this was news not fit to emphasize, and the reporter's story was blurred over when printed [see New York Times ["Gunfight Shatters Tranquility of Arkansas Hills"], page 14 (July 3, 1983)].

Mr. and Mrs. Ginter, who had been harboring Gordon Kahl, were charged not only with aiding and abetting a fugitive, but also were fraudulently charged with the murder of Sheriff Matthews. At Trial, the only evidence introduced against them, outside of the background story, was first person evidence from Art Russell's daughter, Karen Russell Robertson, who reported to the Jury what she had seen her father do. And with that eyewitness evidence, the Ginters and Art Russell were convicted and sentenced to protracted incarceration in a Federal Penitentiary [see New York Times ["Arkansans Guilty in Tax Rebel Case"], page A19 (October 19, 1983)].

In conclusion, note that a large volume of the continuous reporting that the New York Times and Time Magazine did on the story from February through October, was based, as usual, on the mere replication of whatever the FBI and wire services had told them, as the Government Billboards that they are -- and so their reporting is highly edited, inaccurate, and distorted news. Be advised that there are numerous inconsistencies in those articles between what they have reported [as the Feds are quite good at changing the facts], and what is reported herein. Until their own reporter J.C. Barden actually went to the torched house to dig at facts for himself on the case, some of the real facts never surfaced, and his reported factual details considerably change the character and color of the savage FBI animal attack on Gordon Kahl.

Incidentally, Mr. Ray Wade, who found Gordon Kahl's foot, was also threatened with being killed himself if he did not remain silent, as were other local residents who also saw different aspects of the bloody reign of FBI terror that went on during that fateful day -- as the FBI once again allowed itself to be defiled by acting ministerially, without and wanting jurisdiction, on behalf of those presiding in Washington who had handed down the extermination orders.


From mild to madness

By TONY SPILDE, Bismarck Tribune

Sunday, February 9, 2003

(This is the first of a five-part series on Gordon Kahl, the 1983 shoot-out at Medina, the causes of the shooting and the aftermath.)

Now here's a complicated tale of law, order and murder.

It's about the meeting of men on a rural North Dakota highway, a deadly confrontation that was as much a crossing of ideals as it was of paths.

Three freedom-loving Americans -- one of them wanted by the law -- were stopped on the outskirts of Medina by federal officers whose duty it was to enforce those laws and ensure those freedoms.

Guns were fired.

When it was over, the blood of two U.S. marshals had spilled onto the road, their hearts to pump no more. Four other men were injured in the crossfire. Two shooters would go to prison for life, while a third would die in another gunfight four months later.

This story doesn't have an ending, especially for the families of those involved. For them it just kind of goes on. The grief is always there, in the ether.

It does have a beginning, though.

The story starts, as most complicated ones do, simply enough. This one begins on a mild Sunday in February, at a meeting in a clinic.

THE MEETING

Gordon Kahl didn't pay his federal income tax.

He was convicted of that in 1977, and three years later failed to meet the terms of his parole. A warrant for his arrest was issued. A few times over the years, marshals attempted to serve the low-priority, misdemeanor warrant to Kahl, but he always seemed a step ahead of them.

One day he wasn't.

Kahl drove from his rural Heaton home to Dr. Clarence Martin's clinic in Medina on Sunday, Feb. 13, 1983. Martin was hosting a meeting of citizens concerned about the country's future. Farmers talked about the bad economy. But there was more going on. Allegedly, the people gathered in Martin's clinic that day were discussing the formation of a new "township," one where the creators could live by laws they chose, one that would withstand the demise of America and the rise of a one-world government. These were not traditional thinkers.

Kahl's son, Yorie, was with him that day. So was his wife, Joan, and family friend Scott Faul. The three farmers were armed with .223-caliber rifles.

The meeting was not secret. Nor was the fact that the marshals wanted Kahl.

Earlier that morning, anticipating that trouble might stem from the gathering, Medina Police Chief Darrell Graf called a meeting of his own. He talked with Jack Miller and Bradley Kapp of the Stutsman County Sheriff's Department about their course of action if Gordon Kahl showed up.

They decided to leave it alone.

"This was a paperwork issue, not about a violent guy who was going to rob a bank or blow up a building or something like that," Graf said. "Gordon Kahl made it very clear that he would leave everyone alone if they left him alone. But if they came after him, he would start World War III. We didn't want anything to do with that."

But when Kapp drove by the clinic that afternoon and saw Kahl's station wagon in the parking lot, he couldn't resist.

He checked to see if the warrant on Kahl was still valid. It was.

Two marshals from Bismarck and two from Fargo would meet him in Medina as soon as they could.

Just before the marshals got there, Yorie Kahl spotted Kapp. The men at the meeting decided to go home.

Yorie Kahl drove the family station wagon, with his mother in the passenger seat and Faul and Vernon Wegner, a Streeter man who also attended the meeting, in back. Gordon Kahl rode in a second car with David Broer.

They topped a hill on their way north out of Medina, and spotted a pair of vehicles parked in the highway ahead. Another approached rapidly from the rear.

The marshals had arrived.

THE SHOOT-OUT

Kahl and Broer tried to turn the two cars around, which allowed the marshals to get closer and hem them in.

They had to stop. Yorie Kahl and Faul were the first to exit a vehicle.

Marshals said the two men grabbed their rifles and pointed them at the lawmen. Faul said the marshals had their guns out first.

Either way, it was a standoff.

For nine minutes, men on both sides aimed guns at each other.

It was 5:45 p.m. The sun that had doled out a wonderfully mild February day had set, and light was fading fast. By now, the only people left in the cars were Joan Kahl, Wegner and Broer. Everyone else was armed and aiming a loaded weapon.

Gordon Kahl stood by his vehicle in the road. Yorie Kahl ran, rifle pointed at the marshals, to a utility pole on the other side of the ditch. Faul ran to the woods near the mobile home of Wayne and Susan Reardon, about 150 feet away.

On one side of the roadblock, U.S. Marshal Ken Muir stood outside his vehicle. Next to him was Medina police officer Steve Schnabel. Deputy Marshal Carl Wigglesworth, who rode with Muir from Fargo, had run to the woods to cut off Faul.

On the south side of the roadblock were Kapp and deputy marshals Robert Cheshire and James Hopson, of Bismarck.

The marshals announced they were there for Gordon Kahl.

Kahl refused to go with them.

Neither side lowered its weapons.

In the trees, Wigglesworth ordered Faul to drop his rifle and return to the vehicle.

"Me and Scott had a standoff in the woods," Wigglesworth said. "Both of us had our rifles pointed at each other. I was stuck in the ice in the bog and couldn't move. He had me in his sights, no doubt in my mind about it, but he didn't shoot."

Terse negotiations ceased.

Crack.

The shot came from Kapp's left. He jerked his head that way and saw Yorie Kahl. Then Kapp turned his head right, at Cheshire, who'd been struck by the bullet.

A second shot whizzed past Kapp. He wheeled and shot Yorie in the stomach with his shotgun. All hell had broken loose. Guns erupted. Faul and the Kahls each fired in Cheshire's direction.

When the shooting stopped, Cheshire and Muir were dead. Hopson and Yorie Kahl were critically wounded. Kapp's finger was shot off and Schnabel had taken a ricocheting bullet in the thigh.

All the injured had to return to the clinic -- to the aid of Martin -- at the same time. The men who had just shot at each other were forced to stand in a room together and fire no more.

Wigglesworth was left to survey the damage.

THE AFTERMATH

Faul has been to Medina nearly every day for 20 years.

He revisits the scene from his prison cell, 575 miles away in Oxford, Wis.

Time.

It's done more than spin the world on by without him or etch wrinkles at the corners of his 49-year-old eyes. It has solidified his view of the shoot-out to the point where hammer and chisel cannot alter it.

In Faul's version of the events, he is innocent. That, of course, is the mantra of the incarcerated. Repeat the same story long enough and it begins to ring true. Or maybe it always was and nobody believed you.

After the shoot-out, Gordon Kahl fled. He was killed in Arkansas in June 1983.

Faul, Yorie Kahl and Joan Kahl went on trial for murder that May. Joan Kahl was acquitted. Yorie Kahl and Faul were found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Wegner got a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony. Broer was convicted of conspiring to assault and harboring a fugitive. He got 10 years.

The three convicted men appealed and lost.

During a life sentence, one has time to think. About what happened. About what might have been.

Faul said the jury went into the trial biased against the defendants, because of the media coverage of the case, which was slanted toward the prosecution's point of view.

He believes what really happened that bloody Sunday was different.

Faul said the marshals pulled up with no announcement of who they were. All they uttered, he said in a recent interview from prison, was "We're going to blow your goddamn heads off."

"From my perspective I was assaulted that day by armed men who did not identify themselves and threatened to kill me," Faul said. "Everyone points to that they had an arrest warrant for Gordon Kahl. But they didn't have one for me, so what they did was assault me."

Contrary to what came out at trial, Faul said the marshals pulled their weapons first. Once he saw their rifles, he grabbed his in self-defense. Then he headed for the woods -- a clear sign, he said, that he wanted no part of what was about to go down.

So why didn't he drop his weapon when Wigglesworth demanded it?

"I heard him say nothing," Faul said. "Whatever he said ... blew right back towards him. He claims I was supposed to go back to the area where I was assaulted -- what was he insane? Besides, what authority did he have to tell me what to do? Did he have a warrant for my arrest?"

Once the shooting started, Wigglesworth said he looked away from Faul to the source of the noise. After that, he lost sight of him. At some point, Faul fired in Cheshire's direction. He said he did so after shots flew at him.

"I had no intent to hit anybody, I acted out of fear for my own life and in self-defense," Faul said. "If I wanted to kill anybody that day I certainly had the opportunity."

Faul said he hates to think that he killed Cheshire, but that it's possible. Cheshire was hit by three bullets, each of them delivering what would have been a fatal wound.

Lynn Crooks, the lead prosecutor at the murder trial, said it didn't matter whether Faul intended to kill anyone.

"Yorie and Scott said they didn't really shoot these guys," Crooks said. "Our answer was, even if that's true, it doesn't make any difference."

The men had at least aided and abetted in the marshals' murders, making them as guilty as if each had been the only shooter.

But they weren't the only shooters, and it couldn't be proved which shots killed Muir and Cheshire. Crooks said that's likely why the jury reduced its verdict to second-degree murder. Another reason for that, he said, was a claim by the defense that Muir fired the first shot, not Yorie Kahl. Not that it made much difference.

"Witnesses saw Cheshire hit by the first shot. Obviously Muir fired only one shot, and he didn't hit Cheshire," Crooks said. "A marshal that has a gun pointed at him has the right to shoot first."

The sleepy town of Medina, population 300, had awakened to a nightmare of gunshots, murders, accusations and a deluge of law enforcement officers and media. After the shoot-out, the town's mayor fired Graf and his police officers because they didn't play a bigger role in pursuing Kahl.

Graf said he kept quiet for nearly 20 years after the event out of respect for the families of the dead marshals. He took a lot of heat. He developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He talks about it now.

"Gordon Kahl had a deep-seated belief that while he was in jail the first time, the government tried to kill him," Graf said. "He was not going to go back to jail again. It didn't take a genius to look into a crystal ball to see what was going to happen in Medina that day. I did everything humanly possible to protect the citizens. I had them move the roadblock out of town. I had an ambulance ready. I stopped citizens from driving into the area. That arrest attempt should never have happened in that day, in that way."

GOING ON WITH LIFE

Funerals for Muir and Cheshire were held the week after the shoot-out.

Muir's wife, Lois, has died. Lynn Cheshire, Robert's widow, moved to a Seattle suburb.

Crooks, who recently retired from the U.S. Attorney's office, said he still thinks about the case quite often. As does Wigglesworth, who retired and lives in West Fargo.

Yorie Kahl, a prisoner in Leavenworth, Kan., wouldn't comment. Joan Kahl made only one statement.

"It was a tragedy and nightmare I've lived with every day of my life for 20 years," she said. "If the government had left us alone that day, none of it would have happened. We didn't go out looking for trouble."

Crooks said the marshals acted on a valid warrant.

Faul was denied parole a little more than a month ago. He works as a clerk in the prison bakery.

He maintains his innocence.

"(The shoot-out) is always going through my mind," Faul said. "I'm innocent of the charges I was supposedly convicted of, so it's a very difficult situation. I can't come to any closing. It's like an albatross. If I was guilty I could accept that, but this was thrust upon me. I hate it."

Three of Faul's five children have married, and he missed all the weddings. His youngest child, Shantel, was 1 when Faul went to prison. She's 21 now.

He is still married to wife Shauna. She and the kids left the dairy farm that went under in the years after the shoot-out. He sees his family, including his father, Alvin, every couple of months.

He spends a lot of time thinking about the case, about how he thinks he was wronged during the arrest attempt and the trial.

Ironically, Wigglesworth thinks Faul's best shot at getting out of jail would be to stop trying to get out of jail.

"Showing remorse for what happened would be a big step toward getting out," Wigglesworth said. "I don't think Kahl will ever get out. He's aligned himself with some pretty bad people. If anybody's got a chance it would be Scott, if he'd acknowledge his part in it that day."

Alvin Faul has told his son the same thing, but said Scott won't listen. Scott just wants it to be over, Alvin said, so he can get on with his life. Have a chance at a happy ending.

But happy endings are the business of brothers named Grimm. In reality, endings are seldom as rosy -- or even black or white.

Most often they're murky. One person sees it like this, another like that.

In real life things sometimes end with two dead marshals, a dead outlaw and two farmers doing life for murder.


The Kahl myth is alive and well

By MIKE ALBRECHT, Bismarck Tribune

Sunday, February 9, 2003

If Gordon Wendell Kahl were alive today he would be 83 years old.

News of Kahl's June 3, 1983, death was printed on the front pages of major newspapers, announced over radios coast to coast and broadcast on televisions throughout the country. It was the bloody conclusion to a four-month manhunt for a North Dakota man who had killed two U.S. marshals in Medina. The story of a tax protester who was cornered at a farm in the Arkansas Ozarks and killed in the ensuing gun battle, his body burned beyond recognition when authorities set the farm house on fire.

But the bombardment of news and even images of his charred remains wasn't enough to convince some that Kahl was dead. Declarations of a cover up and conspiracy by extremist leaders, and rumors flowing from Arkansas gave many cause to question.

How was Kahl able to elude authorities for four months? Is it really his remains buried in a cemetery outside Heaton? What actually happened that summer day in Lawrence County, Arkansas?

Immediately following the Feb. 13, 1983, shoot-out in Medina, an extensive manhunt for Kahl began. Authorities riddled Kahl's Heaton farm house with bullets and tear gas after finding the getaway car in a grove of trees nearby. Roadblocks were set up throughout the state. A military-style search of Ashley was conducted.

But with the exception of reports of a man fitting Kahl's description filling his vehicle with gas or asking directions, Kahl had vanished.

Even today, only theories exist as to the path Kahl took and how he was able to elude authorities. The most accepted of these is that he used backroads to make his way from North Dakota to Texas, where he had lived on and off. Friends from Texas transported him to Arkansas, where he spent his last three months moving from house to house.

Meanwhile, authorities continued investigating leads. A $25,000 reward was offered for information as to Kahl's whereabouts. Kahl's friends and family were closely monitored.

A tip from Karen Russell Robertson enabled the FBI to track Kahl to the isolated earth house of Leonard and Norma Ginter in Arkansas. The house was surrounded, the Ginters allowed to leave, but the events that followed have been debated and questioned for years.

The FBI claimed Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Matthews went into the house and demanded that Kahl surrender. Kahl and Matthews fired at each other, each suffering fatal wounds. The gunshots prompted a barrage of gunfire from law enforcement stationed outside. The fire was reported to have accidentally started from tear gas canisters shot into the house.

Holes in the story began to appear upon further investigation. An accelerant was found in the house, and it was rumored that the fire started after law enforcement placed a gas can over an opening on the roof and riddled it with bullets. No shell casings were found from Kahl's rifle, which led some to believe that the sheriff was the victim of friendly fire. An autopsy by the state medical examiner indicated that both Kahl and Matthews were shot from behind.

But a majority of the talk was in connection with Kahl's charred remains.

The body of Kahl appeared to have been dismembered, hands and feet chopped off. Whether caused by the severe heat of the fire or torture tactics was up for speculation. The question gained violability when a New York Times reporter discovered a severed foot in the smoldering ruins.

The most common question surrounding the incident was whether Kahl was killed in the shoot-out. Gossip in Heaton was that the FBI was still following townsfolk somehow connected to Kahl even after his reported death. Talk persisted despite findings by the Arkansas medical examiner indicated that the remains were those of Kahl. Doubts even prompted Kahl's wife, Joan Kahl, to have a second autopsy performed. The findings were the same: It was Gordon Kahl.

All the answers were buried with Kahl under a wooden cross in a prairie cemetery near Heaton or, as some believe, are still alive with an 83-year-old man who has spent the last 20 years living underground.


The man and the manhunt

By MIKE ALBRECHT, Bismarck Tribune

Sunday, February 9, 2003

The day after Gordon Kahl killed two U.S. marshals in Medina, the state and nation became primarily dependent on one man to provide them with the latest updates on the ongoing manhunt -- FBI agent Richard Blay of Minneapolis.

Immediately after taking charge of the manhunt for Kahl, Blay staged a siege at Kahl's Heaton farm house, but turned up nothing. In the following months, Blay ordered roadblocks across North Dakota, a $25,000 reward for the whereabouts of Kahl, an investigation into any leads, a military-style search of Ashley and the questioning of Kahl's friends.

Blay was not present when Kahl was discovered hiding out in an Arkansas farmhouse four months later and killed in the ensuing shoot-out.

The public spotlight has long since faded for Blay. In a two-week search, the Tribune was unable to locate Blay or determine if he is still alive. Blay is no longer a member of the FBI's ex-agent's society, and those who knew him 20 years ago have lost touch.

Blay retired from the FBI a few years after the manhunt for Kahl and sources say he took a job as head of security for the Boeing Co. in Seattle. A Boeing spokesperson said Blay is not an employee and was unable to verify if he ever was.


Historical Timeline

1968
* Gordon Kahl sends a letter to the IRS stating he would no longer pay federal income tax.

1975
* G. Kahl joins the Posse Comitatus in Texas and becomes the Texas coordinator.

1977
April 14
* G. Kahl convicted of two counts of failing to file federal income tax returns. Kahl spends nine months in prison and put on probation for five years.

1980
July
* G. Kahl summoned to federal court for probation violation, but doesn't show up.

1983
Feb. 13
* Shoot-out outside of Medina

Feb. 14
* G. Kahl drops Scott Faul off at Arlie Roller's farm after staying the night in a shed at G. Kahl's farm.

* Joan Kahl, Vernon Wegner and David Broer charged with murder. Broer faints.

* More than 100 law enforcement officers surround the G. Kahl farmstead.

* Faul surrenders in Fessenden. He's read his rights shortly before midnight and taken to Jamestown where he's charged with murder.

Feb. 15, 12:45 p.m.
* Tear gas canisters thrown into the G. Kahl home.

Feb. 16, morning
* Ken Muir's funeral held in Fargo.

Feb. 17, morning
* Robert Cheshire's funeral held in Bismarck.

* Searches conducted in Ashley for G. Kahl.

May 9
* Jury selection started for trial of Yorie Von Kahl, J. Kahl, Faul and Broer.

* Wegner gets a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony.

May 12, 1:45 p.m.
* Trial begins.

May 28
* Jury reaches guilty verdict. Faul and Y. Kahl are convicted of second degree murder, J. Kahl is acquitted, Broer is convicted of conspiring to assault and harboring a fugitive.

June 3
* Law enforcement officers move in to arrest G. Kahl in Smithville, Ark. Sheriff Gene Mathews and G. Kahl killed in the shoot-out.

1984
May 14
* Y. Kahl, Faul and Broer submit a direct appeal.

1996
April
* Y. Kahl files post conviction relief petition.

1997
* Faul files post conviction relief petition.

2001
March
* Kahl petition denied.

Source: Court documents and "Bitter Harvest" by James Cocoran


Timeline: The shoot-out

Feb. 13, 1983, 2 p.m.
* G. Kahl attends a meeting at Dr. Clarence Martin's clinic in Medina with wife Joan, son Yorie, and Scott Faul.

* The three men carry Mini-14 rifles and Y. Kahl also has a .45-caliber pistol in a shoulder holster.

Shortly before 3 p.m.
* Stutsman County Deputy Bradley Kapp sees G. Kahl's station wagon at Martin's clinic.

* Kapp contacts N.D. State Radio dispatcher, verifies the license number and checks to make sure the warrant for G. Kahl is still active.

* Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Cheshire calls Kapp to tell him he is coming to arrest G. Kahl immediately and to stake out G. Kahl.

* People attending the meeting at Martin's office spot Kapp outside.

* G. Kahl moves his car out of Kapp's line of sight.

5 p.m.
* Deputy marshals Cheshire and James Hopson arrive from Bismarck in a Dodge Ram Charger and wait near the Medina exit.

* The deputies put on bullet proof vests, and U.S. Marshal Ken Muir and deputy marshal Carl Wigglesworth arrive from Fargo.

* Broer calls Medina Police Chief Darrell Graf to see if A.P.B. is still active.

* In the clinic, G. Kahl and Y. Kahl switch clothes.

5:35 p.m.
* Law enforcement officers decide where to set up the roadblock and head toward the location.

5:40 p.m.
* Y. Kahl drives away with G. Kahl's station wagon. J. Kahl is in the front seat, Faul is in the back seat with Wegner.

* G. Kahl follows in Broer's car.

* Cheshire pulls alongside Kapp; Kapp gets in with him and Hopson. They follow the two suspect vehicles out of town.

* Muir calls Graf for backup, but gets no response. Deputy Chief of Police Steve Schnabel responds.

* Muir and Wigglesworth are ahead of the suspect vehicles; Schnabel is also ahead in his police car.

* Suspects see the roadblock and pull into Wayne and Susan Reardon's driveway.

* Dispatcher from the Medina Fire Department calls the Reardons and warns them to lock their doors and that there may be a shoot-out.

* Suspects turn around, but Cheshire, Hopson and Kapp cut off their path.

* Faul and Y. Kahl get out of their vehicle with their weapons. Marshals announce they are there to arrest G. Kahl.

* Yorie runs to a utility pole 50 to 60 feet away.

* G. Kahl gets out of Broer's vehicle and points his rifle toward Cheshire, Hopson and Kapp.

5:45 p.m.
* Cheshire calls Muir and asks him to get more backup.

* Kapp gets out and positions himself at the back of the Ram Charger.

* Muir calls for assistance.

5:47 p.m.
* Faul heads toward the Reardons' home 120 to 150 feet away.

* Wigglesworth runs to try to cut off Faul.

5:52 p.m.
* Schnabel and Muir drive closer and get out with their weapons. The standoff continues.

5:55 p.m.
* Shots are fired. Cheshire reports being hit.

* Kapp hears the shot, looks to his left, sees Y. Kahl by the utility pole.

* Y. Kahl fires at Kapp, but misses.

* Kapp fires once at Y. Kahl and misses, fires a second time hitting Y. Kahl in the stomach.

* Kapp fires two more times at Y. Kahl, who falls to the ground.

* G. Kahl fires at Kapp. The round goes through the Ram Charger windshield and glass lodges in Kapp's forehead.

* More shots are fired at Kapp; he's hit in the finger.

* Kapp retreats to the ditch.

* G. Kahl turns, fires twice. One shot ricochets, hitting Schnabel in the back of the leg; the second shot hits Muir in the chest.

* Hopson falls to the ground because a piece of asphalt dug up from a ricochet has entered his brain through his ear.

* Faul has fired several shots in the direction of the Ram Charger.

* G. Kahl takes Schnabel's police car and drives to the Reardons' driveway where Faul is attending to Y. Kahl.

* G. Kahl walks toward the Ram Charger and fires one shot into Cheshire's head at point-blank range. He fires a second shot into Cheshire's neck.

* G. Kahl helps Faul load Y. Kahl into the police car.

* Faul drives Y. Kahl to Martin's clinic in the police car.

* G. and J. Kahl drive to clinic in the Kahls' station wagon.

* Broer and Wegner leave in Broer's car and return to Streeter.

* Ambulance takes Kapp to Martin's clinic.

* Wigglesworth comes out to review the scene. He finds Muir and Cheshire dead, Hopson in the driveway bleeding from the ear.

* N.D. Highway Patrol arrives and secures the scene.

* Martin stabilizes Y. Kahl at the clinic. Faul and J. Kahl are in the clinic when Kapp is brought in.

* Hopson is brought into the clinic by ambulance.

* Martin notifies Jamestown Hospital that Hopson and Y. Kahl will be coming by ambulance together. Martin and J. Kahl ride along.

* G. Kahl comes into the clinic waiting room where Kapp is, both are armed.

* Right before the ambulance leaves, G. Kahl tells Kapp "It was worth it to me."

* Faul and G. Kahl leave in Schnabel's police car, G. Kahl is driving.

* A.P.B. goes out for Kahl and Faul.

8 p.m.
* Broer and Wegner turn themselves in to the Stutsman County Sheriff's chief deputy. They are questioned until 10 p.m. when they are placed under arrest and charged with murder.

Source: Court documents and "Bitter Harvest" by James Cocoran


SEX: M RACE: N TYPE: N MOTIVE: PC-extremist

MO: Neo-Nazi tax-evader; killed lawmen while a fugitive.

DISPOSITION: Killed in shoot-out with police, June 3, 1984.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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