The Alliance and the Law
Since its founding in 1974, the National Alliance and its late leader, William Pierce, have inspired criminal and terrorist activity across the country. Although Pierce had no criminal record when he died July 23, his bloody novel of race war, The Turner Diaries, had the effect of inspiring members and non-members to violence.
Here is a synopsis of cases where Alliance members came into conflict with law enforcement authorities or where Pierce's work appears to have inspired criminal acts.
DEC. 8, 1984 Robert Mathews, the National Alliance's Pacific Northwest organizer, is killed in a fiery shootout with federal agents on Whidbey Island, Wash. Mathews organized the most notorious terrorist group of the 1980s — the Order, a.k.a. the Silent Brotherhood — based on a group in Alliance leader William Pierce's novel The Turner Diaries. The Order, which was formed in 1983 and came to include at least 24 members, was behind the murder of a Jewish talk show host, armored cars heists that netted $4.1 million, and a whole host of other crimes.
APRIL 19, 1995 Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols use a Ryder truck bomb to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500 others. McVeigh closely patterned the attack on The Turner Diaries, which depicts the very similar bombing of an FBI building, and is carrying photocopied pages of the book when arrested. McVeigh, who will be executed in 2001, is also known to have called an Alliance recorded message line seven times on the day before that bombing.
MAY 12, 1995 Microbiologist and self-proclaimed Alliance member Larry Wayne Harris is arrested after obtaining bubonic plague bacteria through his job at a Lancaster, Ohio, food-testing laboratory. Police confiscate the freeze-dried bacteria along with hand grenade triggers, homemade explosive devices and detonating fuses (and a membership certificate from the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations). Harris will plead guilty to wire fraud and gets 18 months' probation. He will be charged again in 1998 after allegedly obtaining anthrax toxin, but these allegations are dropped after tests show the material is animal vaccine. Harris gets another six months probation.
APRIL 12, 1996 Larry Wayne Shoemake fires more than 100 rounds from an abandoned restaurant during a racist shooting spree in Jackson, Miss., that leaves one black man dead and seven other people, including a reporter, wounded. Shoemake kills himself as police close in. Authorities will find evidence of his neo-Nazi views in his home, including explicit references to a Pierce essay, "Separation or Annihilation," that apparently inspired the attempted massacre.
APRIL 23, 1997 Alliance member Todd Vanbiber, who had been selected to attend an upcoming Alliance leadership conference, is badly injured when one of 14 pipe bombs he is building explodes in an Orlando, Fla., storage unit. Vanbiber, pleading guilty to possessing unregistered explosives and illegally constructing explosives, will tell authorities that he and three others planned to use the bombs as diversions during bank robberies. Vanbiber's six-year sentence is reduced after he agrees to testify against others, while accomplice Brian Donald Pickett pleads guilty to explosives charges and is sentenced to nearly four years. Court testimony will reveal that Vanbiber and Pickett, after allegedly robbing a bank, visited Pierce at the Alliance compound and donated at least $2,000.
FEB. 14, 1999 Alliance member Eric D. Hanson assaults a black man and his white girlfriend in Gurnee, Ill., and will be convicted of assault and disorderly conduct. In June, he also is convicted of illegal weapons possession.
JUNE 10, 1999 Alliance member Chris Scott Gilliam is arrested on federal firearms charges after he admits buying 10 hand grenades from an undercover agent in Mobile, Ala., allegedly for use in mail bombs. A search of his home turns up an Uzi-style rifle and silencer, white supremacist literature and bomb-making instructions. Gilliam will plead guilty and be sentenced to 10 years.
JUNE 12, 1999 Alliance members Scott Alan Lockamy, Howard Lockamy and Mark Layfield are arrested on firearms charges at a Klan rally in Fort Payne, Ala. All three will receive six-month suspended sentences.
FEB. 8, 2000 Michael Stehle, a Pittsburgh Alliance recruiter, is charged with killing Brian Hartzell in Stehle's home because Hartzell was threatening Stehle's roommate with a gun. Finding the shooting justified, police later drop the charges.
AUG. 2, 2000 Carl Joel Carlson, regional Alliance leader from Nebraska, is charged with possession of destructive devices after offering to provide what he thought was a militia group with pipe bombs. The "militia" turns out to be a law enforcement trap. He eventually will plead guilty.
OCT. 25, 2000 Flushing, N.Y., Alliance member Steve McFadden is charged with weapons violations after police search his residence on a tip and find 18 handguns, 14 rifles, two shotguns, a blackjack, brass knuckles, seven swords, and 8,000 rounds of ammunition, along with Alliance literature and a copy of The Turner Diaries. McFadden will be sentenced to three years' probation.
JUNE 4, 2001 Alliance member Eric D. Hanson, earlier convicted of assaulting an interracial couple, is killed after a 14-hour gun battle and standoff with police in Lindenhurst, Ill. The battle broke out when officers tried to arrest Hanson for illegal weapons. He was shot when police entered the store where he had holed up and were fired upon.
JAN. 4, 2002 Michael Edward Smith is charged with possession or manufacture of unregistered destructive devices and possession of firearms in a school zone after being spotted sitting in a car pointing a rifle at a Nashville synagogue. In the car with Smith were an AR-15 assault rifle, a 9mm pistol, ammunition and surgical gloves. Smith then led officers to a cache of weapons that included a shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket, live grenades, armor-piercing ammo, smoke bombs, dynamite fuses and chemicals. He also had white supremacist literature including The Turner Diaries.