Ex-militia member flees into highland

Police say man fired on officers

Herald-Leader/October 16, 2001
By Lance Williams and Bill Estep

Middlesboro -- Police continued searching last night for a former militia member who allegedly shot up a Bell County patrol car Sunday and then escaped into the mountains with several weapons, including an assault rifle and perhaps grenades.

Officials say Steve H. Anderson, 54, shot at police after a traffic stop for having non-working taillights on his pickup. No one was hurt and Anderson escaped by driving the truck off-road into the mountains off U.S. 25E just north of Middlesboro after a gunbattle with police, according to officers.

Police discovered two pipe bombs in the truck early yesterday, prompting federal and state law enforcement officials, including the FBI and ATF, to surround Anderson's home near the Elrod community in rural Pulaski County. A search of the home is expected today.

As of late last night, Anderson -- who police say apparently has military experience and survival training -- remained at large with a considerable amount of firepower. "He appeared to be loaded full tilt,'' said Deputy John Hoskins of the Bell County Sheriff's Department.

According to the Bell County Sheriff's Office, the incident began at 8:15 p.m. Sunday, when Deputy Scott Elder stopped Anderson's vehicle about the taillights.

Elder approached Anderson and asked for his driver's license and explained about the lights. Anderson refused to cooperate, and Elder noticed an ammunition magazine lying in the truck seat, police said.

The Kentucky State Police said Anderson told Elder he was a member of the Kentucky State Militia -- an organization that disavowed him earlier this year -- and was on patrol.

When Elder asked Anderson whether he had weapons, Elder said Anderson responded, "I have several,'' and began to get out of the vehicle. Elder then ran behind his vehicle as Anderson began firing an assault rifle at the patrol car, according to police.

"He tried to cut it in half,'' Hoskins said.

Anderson then drove off northbound on U.S. 25E, and Elder followed. Anderson made a U-turn and began following Elder and shooting at him again, police said. Those shots disabled Elder's car, and a Pineville city police officer picked up the chase.

Police returned fire, with Elder nearly emptying his clip.

Anderson continued to fire at the officer, police said, and then drove into the mountains, eventually finding an unpaved path that the police cruiser couldn't follow.

Over the next several hours, members of the state police Special Response Team searched for Anderson on the ground, while officers in a helicopter equipped with heat-seeking devices and spotlights searched from the air. Police evacuated several homes around the search site Sunday night, but most people were allowed to return by yesterday morning.

At 5:30 a.m. Monday, police found Anderson's truck about 100 feet over an embankment. Police found little of the ammunition Elder had seen in the truck, but did find two pipe bombs. The state police bomb squad was called to the site.

Police said they thought Anderson's arsenal included grenades. They found no blood or other evidence in Anderson's truck that he had been hit.

Anderson has a criminal record. In September 1993, he was charged with two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, court records show. In 1994, one of the felony charges was dropped and he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of wanton endangerment second degree. He received a one-year suspended sentence. Details of that case weren't available yesterday.

Anderson is better known for a controversial short-wave radio program, The Militia Hour, which broadcasts militia-related news and features Anderson's views, which range from denouncing gun control to criticizing the U.S. government to blasting religious minorities. Anderson identifies himself as a follower of the Christian Identity movement, which claims that Jews are the offspring of the devil.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission began an investigation of Anderson for broadcasting without a license. FCC officials would not comment on the status of that investigation yesterday.

Anderson, who had previously served as a major with the Kentucky State Militia, was kicked out of the group in April for several on-air comments regarding religious and ethnic minorities.

"We pretty much disassociated with him completely,'' Patrick Perry of Murray, an assistant commander of the group, said yesterday. "He's a little too extreme for us.''

That view was shared among Anderson's neighbors.

Lanta Turner said Anderson sometimes talked to neighbors about his anti-government and racist views. "He's got a lot of opinions,'' Turner said. "Most of them nobody agrees with.''

Those opinions also got Anderson into trouble with the militia, whose former commander sent a letter to the FBI in April warning officials about him.

"His views are pretty extreme,'' said Richard Stephens, a militia commander in Paducah. "He's a racist and a very paranoid fellow. Actually, I'm surprised he hasn't been killed yet.''

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