Robert Jay Mathews

This blog will be a bit different than most.  While it does involve a crime, actually several of them actually, the death of Robert Jay Mathews was more of an event.  We have other "events" in our history.... Ruby Ridge, the siege at Waco, the Jonestown Massacre.  Now, this one does not necessarily reach to the level of those other cases but it occurred in an era of a sort of uproar in our country, one not unlike I see happening in our near future.

Neo-Nazi/White Supremacist are nothing new.  They have been around for centuries.  They never truly go away but every few decades or so they start to feel as if they are everywhere.  They were big in the 1960's in all the Civil Rights Era things.  Then there was a period in the 1980's in which they seemed to be everywhere again.  It seems that something occurs in the world or the country that somehow tends to bring them out in groves.  I remember back in the 1980's seeing these types of people attempting to promote their groups on shows like Phil Donahue and Geraldo Rivera.  I was still very young then but I still remember seeing them, hearing their ideas and wondering who dropped these people on their heads.  I have to admit in recent months I have been feeling that way again with things that I have seen on the news and the Internet.

I should be clear that as an American and as a proponent not just of the Constitution but of the law I live by the rule that everyone has the right to believe what they want and the First Amendment gives them the right to express it.  With that said, I do not have to like them, or agree with them. I am a firm believer that racism is taught and passed down from generation to generation and yet it is the present generation that has the ability to make the choice to continue those beliefs or break away.  I do not blame past generations for actions or beliefs of the current generation.  I bring this up because when it comes to Robert Jay Mathews my research indicated that by the age of eleven he joined the John Birch Society.  For those who do not know, most see this society as a "far right winged," anti-communist, anti-socialism, group that fights for what they call "limited government."  To be fair to the members of this society, they claim that they believe in smaller government with more state laws and believe that is what the Founding Fathers wanted.  They claim that their status as a hate group drew out of the Civil Rights Movement where they were looked upon as opposing civil rights.  They state this is not true, that they believe in equal rights for all people, of all races but believe that it should be at the state level.  They can call themselves whatever they want that allows them to sleep at night, most modern citizens would consider it a "hate group."  At any rate this is the type of society that at age eleven Robert Mathews would join.

The Mathew family was originally from Texas and in fact Robert's father had once been the mayor of their town of Marfa Texas. By the time Robert joined the John Birch Society his family had moved to Arizona. Sometime in his late teens Robert created a group called The Sons of Liberty, not to be confused with the group of the same name created in the Thirteen Original Colonies in the late 1700's.  This Sons of Liberty was an anti-communist group made up of what was considered to be Mormon Survivalist (people looking to prepare for emergencies such as the Apocalypse).  It was during this time that Robert had what appears to be his first brush with the law.  He was convicted of tax evasion when it was discovered that the attempted to list some of the members of his group as his dependents on his taxes to avoid tax laws and received six months probation.  Soon the group apparently went in a direction in which Robert did not like and he withdrew his membership.

In 1974, along with the help of his father he moved to Metaline Falls Washington and they purchased a plot of land which was sixty acres.  It seems that his time was spent  clearing the land for basically a "compound" of sorts and recruiting people from other white supremacist groups such as the Aryan Nation and the National Alliance.  In September of 1983 it seems that Robert officially founded what would be called The Order.  He recruited several members including his neighbor, Ken Loff and others who seemingly did not have any sort of violent criminal pasts and none had served any time in prison.  The Order however did not have money and funding so in order to get this they started committing crimes.  They started out with small things like robbing an Adult Bookstore but apparently Mathews did not think the risk was worth what they received so they stepped up their game.  The new robberies consisted of robbing armored cars and in the process they decided to dabble in counterfeiting.  A few months later member, Bruce Pierce would be arrested after passing some of the fake money. One of the robberies The Order conducted to raise bail money for Pierce consisted of a bank robbery.  In July of 1984 more than a dozen members robbed a Brink's armored truck of over three million dollars, and they were successful.  The Order was very generous with their spoils from this heist and shared with other white nationalist organizations.  They were also said to be responsible for at least one murder during this time.

Not long later another member, Tom Martinez (kind of funny last name for a white supremacist) also got arrested for passing counterfeit money and made a deal to become an informant for the FBI to basically save his own butt.  He let the agency know all about The Order and the members.  Apparently word got back to members and they started scattering to what they called safe houses. Robert Mathews was one of those people.

In his final days leading up to what would be his ultimate demise Robert Mathews apparently penned a letter although I cannot say if it was to someone directly, or even if it was published before his death or found later.  However, within this letter he had all but declared war on the government saying that many of his family members had been threatened, including his "young" son.  I say "young" because that was the word used and I have no idea just how old he was.  He claimed in the letter that there had been several attempts on his life made by government agencies.  He was quoted as saying he planned to "quit being the hunted and become the hunter."  Mathews actions, and his group were considered to be acts of United States Domestic Terrorism.  

Mathews had fled to a home in Whidbey Island, Washington (this is where in 2003 a man named Russell Douglas was murdered; a case I recently blogged about).  On September 7, 1984 more than one hundred members of several law enforcement agencies surrounded the home.  Mathews refused to surrender and by the following day he even refused to talk.  The FBI decided to fire dozens of smoke and stun grenades into the home and were going to attempt to go in. Mathews was unaffected by the grenades due to a gas mask he was wearing. When he saw agents trying to enter the house he opened fire and they retreated.  Sometime later that night a helicopter flew over the home and Mathews fired upon it also.  While Mathews and agents were exchanging massive gun fire, law enforcement decided to throw some flares into the home. The flares set off a box of hand grenades that Mathews had in the house as well as a stockpile of ammo.  The house caught fire but still Mathews would not back down and continued to fire at the agents.  Eventually the firing would stop and agents would find Robert Mathews body inside the home.  A medallion he wore had melted to his chest.  An examination would determine that he died from massive burns and smoke inhalation.

It would also be discovered that in that day Mathews had fired over 1,000 rounds at law enforcement.  Surprisingly no one was injured... well, except Mathews. 

During eight trial, seventy-five members of The Order were convicted of crimes. The majority of them included racketeering, counterfeiting, transporting stolen property, and armed car robberies.  Later the government attempted to convict ten people for what was called sedition but they were acquitted.  I looked to see what this charge was and from my understanding in essence it was saying that the group in which they belonged to was unlawful.  With that general, vague view I can understand the acquittals. 

David Lane was among the members that were convicted of crimes after Mathews' death.  He would receive a sentence of over 190 years and would die in a federal prison in 2007.  He will be remembered for penning a slogan for The Order... It's called "the 14 words" (I have actually seen this referenced in the show The West Wing).... 

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children

This says all we need to know about The Order.


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