Police Officer Recounts His Meeting with Future Aryan Nations Leader Harold Ray Redfeairn
Twenty-four years ago, a young police officer met the future heir apparent of the Aryan Nations. It almost cost him his life
KOENIG: No. Actually, I don't think it even came up until he actually went to prison. It never came out in the trial or the proceedings.
IR: Redfeairn was not tried for your attempted murder, or for the robberies, until 1981, more than two years after the shooting. Why did it take so long?
KOENIG: Because he was found incompetent to stand trial initially. They blamed it on his upbringing, the religious fervor of the aunt who raised him. He heard voices and all that.
[Editor's note: In court, psychologists also testified to Redfeairn's lifelong pattern of mental illness. Redfeairn, they said, was a paranoid schizophrenic with frequent hallucinations and persistent delusions, including a belief that he was chosen by God to engage in violent battle with the Devil "at the time of Armageddon." These fantasies had been helped along, they said, by Redfeairn's Pentecostal upbringing.
In adulthood, the psychologists testified, Redfeairn continued to have imaginary companions who spoke with him frequently, and he believed he was "in constant touch" with the Archangel Michael. According to his psychologists, when he committed the robberies and attempted murder, Redfeairn "was experiencing an acute psychotic episode," and therefore should not be held responsible for his actions.
His imaginary companions "had a whole lot to do with what happened in that car," Redfeairn's defense attorney argued. One psychologist added that Redfeairn, who did not testify in his own defense, believed "police were agents of the devil."]
After he was found incompetent, he was placed on a "civil commitment" to a state institution, which is what they do in Ohio. He ended up at Dayton State Hospital, probably a quarter-mile from where he shot me.
We started a process to re-indict him [when Redfeairn was about to be released from Dayton State Hospital in the fall of 1980]. He had "regained competency" and could stand trial now. We'd had the grand jury hearing, but they hadn't issued an indictment yet.
And then, as coincidence would have it, I was home on an off day, and a buddy of mine who was a detective stopped by. He was working, so he had his radio, and over the radio we heard someone asking downtown to pull a photo of Harold Redfeairn. Well, that caught both of our ears, so we made some calls and found out that he'd been on a work release program as part of his civil commitment, and had not returned. That helped prod along the issuing of indictments.
IR: At his trial in 1981, Redfeairn's attorney argued that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, right?
KOENIG: Yes. But that was rejected. The jury found him guilty on all counts. As I recall, he got four consecutive seven-to-25-year sentences.
[Editor's note: Redfeairn was originally sentenced to seven to 25 years on each of three counts of aggravated robbery and one count of attempted aggravated murder. One robbery conviction was thrown out during a series of appeals that didn't end until 1985, and the two others were reduced to four-to-25-year sentences, meaning that Redfeairn's maximum prison time amounted to 75 years.]
IR: Redfeairn had not even served his entire minimum sentence when he was paroled in 1991. How did you feel when he was released?
KOENIG: Not happy. Since I was still a policeman at the time, I kind of knew that the system does what it does, and doesn't really care whether you're happy or not. I had written letters for each of his parole hearings, and forwarded them to the prosecutor's office, but they did what they did.
IR: Redfeairn has had numerous run-ins with the law since his release. Have you and your family felt threatened at all?
KOENIG: My wife does now, but she didn't know me when I was a policeman. The way I figure it, to a lot of these guys, it's a game. They know the rules of the game and know if they screw with either a police officer or the complainant [who filed criminal charges against them], it just means they're going to do more and worse time, so they'll think, "OK, I got caught, did my time, and I'll go on to my next venture." Of course, that could be incorrect. Maybe it's just my way of dealing with it.
IR: Have you ever worried about Redfeairn's neo-Nazi comrades wanting to finish the job?
KOENIG: Not a whole lot, but I won't say it's never crossed my mind. I ended up leaving the Dayton ... and going to a police department near Cincinnati. I left there and relocated to work for a private employer. If you wanted to find me, you could, but it would take a little work to track me down.
IR: Redfeairn has said at least once that he regrets shooting you. Do you have any reason to believe he's sincere?
KOENIG: I have no idea. Prior to sentencing, the judge contacted me and said that Harold and his family wanted to meet with me. I saw no reason to do that. If he said he was sorry, it would have meant nothing to me, quite honestly.
IR: You must have learned a lot about the Aryan Nations and the larger neo-Nazi movement through the years. What do you know now that others could learn from?
KOENIG: That they don't respect law-enforcement officers. Other people do, to a certain degree. With them [the neo-Nazis], you're even a lower step than the common citizen because you're a cop. They have nothing holding them back, basically.
And they don't want to get caught. My shooting was that situation; they don't want to get caught.
IR: Should it tell us something about Aryan Nations and other neo-Nazi groups that a person like Redfeairn is poised to become their leader?
KOENIG: That they'll be all the more dangerous, toward everybody. There are some groups that espouse violence and never follow through. These neo-Nazi groups espouse violence, and they do follow through.
IR: In the twisted worldview that prevails in neo-Nazi circles, do you think that Redfeairn has an enhanced measure of credibility because he shot you?
KOENIG: I'm sure he does. It's like industry: When you rise to be president of something, they look to see what your background was. He's rising to the head of an organization that measures its accomplishments by measures that nobody else would even think would be credible. But it's in line with their beliefs and thought processes.