Officers Kill Militia Voice

Deputy Shot

The Arizona Republic/November 7, 2001
By Mark Shaffer

Eagar -- One of the country's most influential militia radio broadcasters was killed early Tuesday in a hail of gunfire when law officers tried to arrest him on a warrant accusing him of aggravated assault.

William Milton Cooper, 58, whose apocalyptic, constitutionalist shortwave radio programs were a major influence on Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, was shot to death after Cooper shot and critically wounded an Apache County sheriff's deputy who had tried to arrest him, officers said.

The officer, Robert Marinez, 40, was listed in critical condition at St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

Apache County Sheriff Brian Hounshell said Marinez, a former Marine and Persian Gulf War veteran, was shot twice in the head by what was believed to be a .45-caliber pistol. The officer was expected to survive, Hounshell said, after undergoing two hours of surgery Tuesday morning. Marinez's skull was fractured, and surgeons removed bone fragments from near his brain, the sheriff said.

Cooper had been indicted on federal charges of failing to pay taxes from 1992 to 1994 and became a fugitive after failing to appear for a U.S. District Court hearing in Phoenix three years ago.

Scott Garms, Eagar's police chief, said he had urged federal law officers to stay away from Cooper's two-story compound, high on a mesa overlooking Round Valley, because militia group members do not recognize the legitimacy of federal law officers.

"We certainly didn't want to make him a martyr," Garms said.

The police chief said the effort to arrest Cooper became a local law enforcement matter in July after Cooper ordered a local man to leave land that Cooper did not own atop the mesa and then followed the man about two miles to his home. Cooper then pulled a gun and pointed it at the man's face, Garms said. That resulted in a warrant for Cooper's arrest.

Seventeen officers were involved in the operation, which started at 11:40 p.m. Monday, Garms and Hounshell said.

Garms said a group of undercover officers in a pickup truck pretended to be "people just acting normal up there at night" in a ruse to draw Cooper out of his house to adjoining property 200 yards away. But Cooper surprised the officers by driving, not walking, to them, and he never left the vehicle during a verbal altercation.

During that confrontation, a second undercover police vehicle drove to Cooper's property line and blocked the road, Garms said. But on the way back to his house, Cooper drove off the side of the road and tried to run over sheriff's Sgt. Steve Brown, who dived out of the way, Hounshell said.

Cooper then parked his vehicle in front of his house, and Marinez followed him toward his front door while admonishing him to surrender, Hounshell said. Near the door, Cooper turned and fired an undetermined number of rounds at Marinez, who was wearing a bulletproof vest but no helmet, Hounshell said, adding that officers had not seen Cooper's handgun before he fired it.

At that point, another sheriff's deputy who had been at the side of Cooper's home, approached Cooper and opened fire. Hounshell said he did not know where or how many times Cooper was struck, saying a state Department of Public Safety shooting-review team had been dispatched to the site. Hounshell declined to identify the officer.

Cooper had said numerous times on his radio show, Hour of the Time, and posted on his Web site, that he had been under siege by "Nazi jackbooted thugs." He also had solicited donations for what he said was his fight against the U.S. government, which he said was responsible for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

"He had vowed that he would not be taken alive," said Tom McCombs, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal's Service in Phoenix.

Garms said Cooper's radio show had been off the air for about a month because of a shortage of money. But in one of his last programs, Garms said, Cooper had accused the federal government of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Glenn Jacobs, a Round Valley newspaper publisher and friend of Cooper, said he didn't think the police operation was unjustified.

"I think Bill just went nuts. He was looking for martyrdom anyway and swore he would never surrender," Jacobs said. "They had him dead to rights on the aggravated assault."

Jacobs also said that if the sheriff's deputies had allowed Cooper to enter his house, "they would have had a bloodbath on their hands."

"He kept an AK-47 just inside his front door by a magazine rack," Jacobs said.

A spokesman for a group that tracks militias said the shooting wasn't surprising given Cooper's history. In addition to his show, he was known within the militia movement for an influential book called Behold a Pale Horse, in which he wrote about global elites and conspiracies.

"For more than 3 1/2 years, he had been holed up in his house in Eagar, threatening to kill police officers and federal agents," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "He was talked about as a guy who talked crazy and made a lot of threats. The reality is that people like him are frequently exceedingly dangerous."

James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma bombing co-defendant Terry Nichols, said during a 1996 court proceeding that McVeigh had been a regular listener of Cooper's programs in the months leading up to the Murrah bombing.

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