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One injured in separatist standoff

Texas standoff

'Republic of Texas' holds two hostages

In this story:

April 27, 1997
Web posted at: 8:05 p.m. EDT (0005 GMT)

FORT DAVIS, Texas (CNN) -- Law enforcement officials surrounded a militant Texas separatist group Sunday after members seized two hostages at their remote west Texas property.

The standoff occurred near Fort Davis, Texas, where the leader of the militant group, Richard McLaren, has been holed up there since being charged in December with avoiding a federal contempt citation.

The hostages were taken after the arrest of the Republic's so-called chief of security, Bob Sheidt, early on Sunday. McLaren called that arrest a "kidnapping," and the impetus for taking Joe Rowe and his wife, M.A. Rowe, as hostages.

The Rowes are the group's neighbors, and they lead an area homeowners' association. McLaren has called them "federal moles."

Tensions escalated at about noon Sunday when there were reports that Rowe was shot and injured.

McLaren

Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike Cox told CNN that shots were fired inside the building and that emergency workers were allowed in to treat the hostage's shoulder. The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear, and the condition of the victim are unclear.

McLaren later said Rowe was released for treatment and exchanged for a volunteer hostage.

"We want them to ... agree to a referendum to allow Texans to vote on the independence issue," McLaren said from his group's headquarters in a remote, mountainous area 75 miles north of the Mexico border.


Arrests prompt group's anger

Since the standoff began at noon, 13 state troopers, two Texas Rangers and the entire Jefferson Davis County sheriff's department had surrounded the area, Cox said. FBI agents were also joining the scene, he added.

McLaren said he also was angered by the arrest in Austin last Tuesday of group member Jo Ann Canady Turner on two contempt charges, stemming from a lien she filed against a moving company that stored her possessions after she was evicted. She was still in custody Sunday.

"When they arrested her, they enacted a declaration of war," he said.

Group seeks independent Texas

map of Texas

Equipped with computers, fax machines and guns, McLaren and less than 20 followers have exiled themselves in a former firehouse at this vacation resort that's home to about 70 full-time residents. They've renounced their U.S. citizenship and tried to lay claim to trillions of dollars in state assets.

The movement contends that the annexation of Texas as a state in 1845 was illegal, that Texas should remain an independent nation, and that the group's leaders constitute the legitimate government of the independent nation of Texas.

U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton III ordered McLaren's arrest after he failed to appear in Bunton's Pecos courtroom December 19. Bunton had warned the Republic and its representatives to quit filing bogus liens against property owners in Texas.

Since 1995, the movement has ordered Gov. George W. Bush to leave office, formed its own "defense forces" and asked county sheriffs to go to work for them.

Last July, while the state tried unsuccessfully to stop McLaren from filing bogus liens fake arrest warrants, the Republic attempted to take possession of the state capitol. Such incidents have lead the state to now consider McLaren and his followers a threat.

"They could resort to violence (and have) to be taken seriously," Texas Deputy Attorney General Peter Haskall said.

Officials probe cyberspace

Republic of Texas web page

Texas officials have been combing the Internet for information about the group. Ten Texas Internet providers received subpoenas in early April asking them to hand over electronic mail and other documents pertaining to their customers who happen to be Republic members.

"This organization has a history of violating the law and a history of paper terrorism," said Ron Susek, a spokesman for Texas attorney general.

"It is associated with some militias. It would be irresponsible for us not to pay close attention to their activities and their main way of communication with each other is through the Internet."

 
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