Community sealed off in Texas showdown
April 28, 1997
FORT DAVIS, Texas (CNN) -- Law enforcement officers kept a blockade outside a remote mountain community in western Texas Monday, following the release of two hostages held by a militia group that advocates independence for the state.
State Trooper Richard Treece declined to say if law officers were still in direct contact with members of the Republic of Texas militia.
The group's "ambassador," Richard McLaren, told Texas media outlets that the group would not give up, and demanded that Texas voters be allowed to decide whether Texas should become an independent republic.
Members of the group stormed the home of Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe on Sunday, taking the couple hostage and demanding the release of two of their members. The Rowes were released early Monday in exchange for Robert Jonathan Scheidt, the Republic's security chief who had been arrested on a weapons violation early in the day.
The group also had demanded the release of Jo Ann Canady Turner, arrested in Austin last week on two contempt charges. Turner remained in custody.
The main road leading into the Davis Mountain community was blocked off by authorities, who also surrounded the subdivision, leaving an estimated 90-150 residents "more or less trapped in their homes," according to Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Laureen Chernow.
Lucila Torrez, also of the public safety department, said the Rowes had been taken for medical attention. Joe Rowe was struck in the shoulder by a bullet during the assault on his home. He was in stable condition at an Alpine, Texas, hospital.
The confrontation between Rowe and McLaren was not a surprise. As head of the local property owner's association, Rowe often complained of harassment by Republic members who'd been patrolling roads in the community, which is mostly populated by retirees.
McLaren claimed Rowe and his wife were spying on his group.
"The people that were captured ... the gentleman is blowin' his mouth off on the TV and is working for the feds," McLaren said in a radio interview Sunday night. "... And they were the ones that basically called in and had our boy arrested."
"As a spy, under the laws of war, and his house being designated a military target, we are perfectly under international law in our right to do this," McLaren added.
McLaren has been wanted on federal civil contempt charges since he failed to appear in court on December 19. McLaren and his supporters had been flooding the courts with bogus liens against property owners in Texas.
Local authorities apparently had avoided trying to arrest McLaren, fearing a standoff would occur.
Members of another Republic of Texas faction, which says it "impeached" McLaren March 22, disavowed his latest actions in an "urgent" Web site posting on Sunday.
"It appears that Richard McLaren and those acting with him have gone completely off the deep end," the statement read. "... These actions are another in a long chain of unlawful acts by Mr. McLaren, culminating today in the kidnapping of a Texas Citizen on nothing but hearsay ... The lawful Provisional Government of the Republic of Texas remains committed to a peaceful solution to Texas independence."
Members of the Republic of Texas movement believe that the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 was illegal and that the state should be an independent republic as it was from 1836 until 1845.
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