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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Now here's a complicated tale of law, order and
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
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
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.
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
Either way, it was a standoff.
For nine minutes, men on both sides aimed guns at
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
Blay was not present when Kahl was discovered hiding
out in an Arkansas farmhouse four months later and killed in the ensuing
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.
* Gordon Kahl sends a letter to the IRS stating he would no longer pay
federal income tax.
* G. Kahl joins the Posse Comitatus in Texas and becomes the Texas
* 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
* G. Kahl summoned to federal court for probation violation, but doesn't
* Shoot-out outside of Medina
* 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
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.
* Jury selection started for trial of Yorie Von Kahl, J. Kahl, Faul and
* Wegner gets a plea bargain in exchange for his
May 12, 1:45 p.m.
* Trial begins.
* 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.
* Law enforcement officers move in to arrest G. Kahl in Smithville, Ark.
Sheriff Gene Mathews and G. Kahl killed in the shoot-out.
* Y. Kahl, Faul and Broer submit a direct appeal.
* Y. Kahl files post conviction relief petition.
* Faul files post conviction relief petition.
* Kahl petition denied.
Source: Court documents and "Bitter Harvest" by
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
* Kapp contacts N.D. State Radio dispatcher, verifies
the license number and checks to make sure the warrant for G. Kahl is
* Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Cheshire calls Kapp to
tell him he is coming to arrest G. Kahl immediately and to stake out G.
* People attending the meeting at Martin's office
spot Kapp outside.
* G. Kahl moves his car out of Kapp's line of sight.
* 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.
* Law enforcement officers decide where to set up the roadblock and head
toward the location.
* 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
* 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.
* 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.
* Faul heads toward the Reardons' home 120 to 150 feet away.
* Wigglesworth runs to try to cut off Faul.
* Schnabel and Muir drive closer and get out with their weapons. The
* 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
* 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
* 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
* 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
* Faul drives Y. Kahl to Martin's clinic in the
* G. and J. Kahl drive to clinic in the Kahls'
* Broer and Wegner leave in Broer's car and return to
* 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
* 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
* 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.
* 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