Even when the Aryan Nations was at the height of its power in the 1990s, few within its leadership could match the rage, paranoia and utter madness of Harold Ray Redfeairn. Long before he made a name for himself as a neo-Nazi leader, Redfeairn had built an extensive criminal record that included the near-fatal shooting of an Ohio police officer in 1979. By 1992, he was the Ohio state leader for the Aryan Nations, a post he held for six years. He was also a minister in the racist Christian Identity movement. At times considered the heir apparent to Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler, Redfeairn died from a heart attack in October 2003.
In His Own Words
"You fucking pig, you think you're so bad now, eh?"
—To police officer Dave Koenig after shooting him multiple times in 1979
"We are dangerous. Dangerous to the Jews, niggers, and anyone else who poses a threat to the white race. What I find especially disturbing is the niggers."
—Sermon from the 1990s, as recounted by former FBI informant Dave Hall
"As far as I am concerned, there aren't any 10,000 niggers worth one Aryan's life."
—Sermon from the 1990s, as recounted by Dave Hall
"No doubt all of you have heard the news out of Jasper, Texas, about three young Aryan men chaining a nigger to the bumper of their pickup truck and dragging him to death. I think this is a terrible, terrible thing. I think this was a terrible thing because they had to have had at least enough room for six more niggers on that bumper!"
—Sermon from the 1990s, as recounted by Dave Hall
In 1981, Redfeairn was convicted of attempted aggravated murder and three counts of aggravated robbery. The aggravated murder charge stemmed from the 1979 shooting of an Ohio police officer. Sentenced to four consecutive seven-to-25-year sentences, Redfeairn was nonetheless paroled in 1991. Just one month later, he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.
During the 1990s, Redfeairn served more time for separate convictions for aggravated menacing, carrying a concealed weapon and drunken driving. He once showed up at the house of the man who had reported his erratic driving and threatened to kill him. In 1996, Redfeairn's mother accused her son of threatening to kill her. She later withdrew the charge.
Even before he made a name for himself within the leadership of the Aryan Nations as a walking powder keg, Harold Ray Redfeairn had a reputation – and a criminal record – as a viciously unpredictable character.
In 1979, Redfeairn shot Dayton, Ohio, police officer Dave Koenig three times at a traffic stop. Redfeairn, who had already held up a car dealership and a motel, kneeled over the fallen officer and, according to Koenig, put the gun to his head and said, "You fucking pig, you think you're so bad now, eh?" Though Koenig, 22 at the time, was hit in the neck, shoulder and liver, he would survive thanks to his bulletproof vest.
Redfeairn became the Ohio state leader for the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, which was then based in Idaho, in 1992, and served until 1998. He also preached the racist Christian Identity theology, which was the religion of the Aryan Nations.
None of this activity dulled Redfeairn's criminal propensities. During the 1990s, he served time for separate convictions for aggravated menacing, carrying a concealed weapon and drunken driving, and he once showed up at the house of the man who had reported his erratic driving and threatened to kill him. In 1996, Redfeairn's mother accused her son of threatening to kill her, too, but later withdrew the charge.
Redfeairn was the Ohio state leader of the Aryan Nations when it was infiltrated by FBI informant Dave Hall. During his time in the organization, Hall learned of a plot to assassinate Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees. Hall, who recounts his undercover work in the 2008 book Into the Devil's Den, foiled the plot, which led to the arrest of the would-be assassin, a member of the group. Redfeairn was not charged in connection with the plot.
Redfeairn quit the Aryan Nations in 1998 but testified for Aryan leader Richard Butler in 2000, when the Southern Poverty Law Center was suing the group and several of its members in connection with an attack on a woman and her son. He told the court he had quit the group because Butler advocated nonviolence — testimony that was undermined by video showing Redfeairn in Butler's pulpit, with Butler standing nearby, saying that "to grab an AK-47 or an M16 and run and plug some nigger in the head" was an act of "conscience" that he "won't condemn." (The SPLC won a $6.3 million verdict in the case, forcing Butler to auction off the Aryan Nations' 20-acre compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, as part of bankruptcy proceedings.)
The next year, an undercover tape recording caught Redfeairn, in the home of an Aryan Nations member, speaking about recent racial disturbances in Cincinnati. "You can legally kill this nigger," he said, apparently referring to blacks in general. "I said, 'Shoot it in the head.'"
In late 2001, Butler named Redfeairn as his eventual successor. Redfeairn later attempted a coup against Butler and was kicked out. He returned in 2002 and was reinstated as Butler's successor. But Redfeairn wouldn't resurrect the Aryan Nations to its former glory. He died from a heart attack in October 2003.
Almost seven years after his death, Redfeairn's name surfaced in connection with a shootout that left two Arkansas police officers dead. The shooting occurred when two police officers pulled over a father and son apparently steeped in the beliefs of the radical "sovereign citizens" movement in West Memphis, Ark., on May 20, 2010. The officers were shot and killed at the scene. The suspects – Jerry Ralph Kane Jr. and his 16-year-old son Joseph – were killed later that day in a shootout at a Wal-Mart parking lot that left two other officers injured.
According to reports, the minivan driven by Kane during the shootout was registered to an address in New Vienna, Ohio, called House of God's Prayer. That was the building that once housed the Aryan Nations Ohio headquarters headed by Redfeairn. The location was reportedly owned in 2010 by a man named Hoge Tabor of Middletown, Ohio. In his book, Hall, the man who infiltrated Redfeairn's organization for the FBI, wrote that Tabor was a longtime Redfeairn associate and a Klansman for decades.