Twin Brothers, EMTs, Stalked By Racist Skinheads
Since a Bloody Encounter, Two Men Live in Fear
Interview conducted by Casey Sanchez
Photography by Stefan Hester
Bill and Roger Larson are 33-year-old identical twins who grew up and still live in Springfield, Ill. In May 2003, when both Larsons were employed as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), a gang of racist skinheads ambushed the brothers outside a bar over a minor perceived affront. Roger Larson defended himself with his EMT knife, stabbing to death Jason Hinsey, one of the leaders of the Midwest 1911 Brotherhood, a Springfield-based splinter faction of the violent Midwest Hammerskins. Homicide investigators found that Hinsey's death was a justifiable homicide, and Roger Larson was not charged. But in the five years since Hinsey bled out despite Bill Larson's efforts to save the skinhead, the surviving members of the 1911 Brotherhood have done their best to make the Larsons' life a living hell, subjecting them to repeated online death threats, confronting them in restaurants, and stalking their spouses and children in a local Wal-Mart. The Larson brothers, both of whom are traumatized by Hinsey's violent death and its continuing consequences, spoke to the Intelligence Report recently in separate interviews. Their accounts are presented side by side in order to present a more readable narrative.
When did you first encounter skinheads in Springfield?
ROGER LARSON Back when we were in high school, we were in the punk rock scene, in the skateboard scene, and on the weekends there were all-ages shows. Unfortunately, [racist] skinheads tried to be part of the scene. They'd start in the mosh pit [a dance floor near the stage]. One time, they came up to me and my brother and they go, "We're not allowing anybody in the pit, but we'll allow you two guys if you want to come on in." And that's [how] they'd get people in the pit. But instead of moshing, they'd end up beating them up and giving them boot parties [kicking them with steel-toed boots]. WAR [White Aryan Resistance, a neo-Nazi group based in Southern California] was prolific here. Then a few years later, the Hammerskins started getting popular, so [some of WAR's skinhead members] broke off. Some stayed WAR and then some broke off to start a Hammerskins chapter. So there ended up being two factions. This was in the early 90s, maybe '90 to '95.
How did you first come across Jason Hinsey?
BILL LARSON A friend of mine was dating a girl. This was 10, 12 years ago. She was cheating on him. We went to go move him out of her house. They got into it while we there. They were fighting and stuff. Six months to a year after that, she started dating Jason Hinsey. I don't know what she told him, but he developed some serious hatred for me and my brother.
ROGER LARSON Six years ago, we were out at Brewhaus, one of the more popular local bars in Springfield, and this Jason Hinsey and another guy walks up to me and says, "Do you know who the fuck I am?" I did. I knew what he was about. I knew what he does. I had a couple cocktails on me. I was buzzed. So I ended up having fun with it. I'm like, "No, but you obviously know who the fuck I am, so what do you want?"
So he started saying, "I'm gonna beat you up, I'm gonna get your brother." So I was like, "Fine, you want to beat me up, come to my house, we don't do this at the bar, we don't do this in public." At the time, I was EMS [Emergency Medical Services]; I didn't want to go to jail for getting into a fight because that'd ruin my career. He said, "No, I'm going to be a gentleman about this." And there was no violence that night.
What happened on the night of May 3, 2003?
ROGER LARSON We all decided to go out. Me and my brother and my brother's wife and some other friends of hers. So we go down to Brewhaus.
BILL LARSON There was a group of skinheads there. We'd only been there probably 15 minutes when Mike Bain, one of the guys who has been around for a long time as a skinhead, walked up to our table and just started talking to us. I should've known something was wrong then, because it was odd for him to approach us like that. Anyway, we decided to leave because the skinheads were there. So we walk out the front door of the bar. My brother's vehicle is parked in the parking lot that's in the rear.
ROGER LARSON I had a little Isuzu Rodeo, a little crappy truck. I'm walking with my hands in my pocket. I always walk with my head looking down on the ground. My brother, I could hear him start to say something. He's pointing behind me. Before he can get a word out, I look back, my head is still down, all I can see is feet running up on me.
BILL LARSON Have you seen "Aliens"? You remember when the aliens just start charging the Marines? I mean they're just jumping, coming out of everywhere, jumping over stuff. That's what it reminded me of. I screamed, "Skinheads!" I didn't even get the word all the way out before there were instantly two of them on him. And more were coming. They went down to the ground. A third one jumped on him. Then Jason [Hinsey] yelled to the rest of them, "That's the other one, get him."
ROGER LARSON At first, I didn't even know who the hell it was. One of them grabs me by the neck in a choking position. And the force of him hitting me knocks me over the hood of my car. The second one comes up and starts hitting me on the side of my head. I can hear him going, "Hit him! Hit him! Hit him!" I got my eyes closed — I've never been accosted like that in my life. Then I hear more feet running up on me. This guy's grasp on my throat is getting tighter and tighter. I can hear someone saying, "Choke him out! Choke him out!" At this point, I'm thinking, "I'm dead, I'm going to die." So I'm like, you know, I might as well try to get myself out of this as best I can. So I cut his arm with my knife.
Why were you carrying a knife?
ROGER LARSON It was my paramedic's knife. Before that night, I never carried a knife for protection. I always just looked at a knife as something I carry on the job. I use a knife all throughout the day, either cutting a nasal cannula [supplemental oxygen tubing] or to tie down ET tubing.
BILL LARSON Every paramedic in town carries a knife because it's a tool.
What happened after you cut Hinsey's arm?
ROGER LARSON He wouldn't let go. I cut it another time. He still wouldn't let it go. I think I cut it a third time and he still would not let go. And this whole time, I'm not able to breathe, he's got such a tight grip around my throat. And there are guys pummeling me, beating the hell out of me. I'm so scared, I'm about to piss myself. So I swung my knife around and I was trying to get his lung. I swung blindly. I was just trying to get him off me. And I made contact with the knife. A few seconds later I can hear him say, "He stabbed me. Motherfucker stabbed me."
As he was falling, I got spun around to where I went face down. And then when I hit the ground I looked up and there was Jason Hinsey crawling backwards away from me. And then I remember getting kicked in the head. The next thing, I'm waking up with somebody standing over me, trying to help me up.
Bill, what were you doing while your brother was being attacked?
BILL LARSON This skinhead who was probably six-and-a-half feet tall, 350 pounds, a big, big guy, he pulled a knife on me and my buddy and goes, "You want to get in? You're going to get cut." I realized I wasn't going to be able to help him [Roger], so I did what I thought was right — I went back into the bar to call [the police]. As I was heading back out, a friend of my wife's runs up to me and says, "They stabbed your brother. He's been stabbed." I run out and see a couple of my buddies holding the skinheads back. And I see my brother on the ground. He's not responsive to voice commands and he's covered in blood. And then I see Jason Hinsey about three feet away from him, laying on the ground. So I go into work mode. I'm assessing a patient. I'm not assessing my brother, you know? It takes me about two seconds to realize, my brother's breathing, he's waking up. This blood is not his.
That's when you realized…
BILL LARSON One of the skinheads, one of the few that stayed to help his friend that got stabbed, he says, "He [Roger] didn't get stabbed, Jason did." So I look at Jason, he's wearing a wife beater, so I can see quite a bit of his body. His left arm is cut to shreds, inside of the elbow. He's purple from the nipples up which is called traumatic asphyxiation. That means there's no blood flow to the higher parts of the body. So you get purple from the nipple line up. That's not a good sign.
I immediately ran over to him. This skinhead that was helping him, he was trying to do some type of tourniquet. So I rip my shirt off, I said, "The bleeding in his arm, you're not going to stop with a tourniquet. Take my shirt, put it in the hole and squeeze as tight as you can." So while he's doing that, I'm checking vital signs. He's got a pulse. It's sporadic but it's there. He's moving air, it's called "guppie breathing," like a fish. He's moving air and he's got a pulse, so technically I cannot start CPR. Because you don't start CPR on someone that's got a pulse. Even though he's got a screwed-up pulse, he still has one.
What happened when the police arrived?
BILL LARSON I'm controlling the bleeding when a cop shows up. I say, "Look I'm an off-duty Lifestar medic. I need his shirt open. Can you cut his shirt open?" The cop kinda looked at me for a second, trying to size me up, to make sure I'm not trying to kill this guy. Then he cuts [Hinsey's] shirt open and I see a quarter inch stab wound in his chest that's not bleeding. At that point, as soon as I recognized that, an ambulance shows up and I give them a report of what's going on, what's happening to this guy. The cop is escorting me the whole time. He's like, "Who was involved?" There were only three skinheads who stayed. The rest took off. One of them stole my brother's jacket. As soon as they beat my brother down to unconsciousness and knew the cops were coming, they split.
ROGER LARSON The police grabbed me and put me in 'cuffs and threw me in the back of the squad car. Then they took me down to their Major Crimes Unit and put me in a holding room. Me and two police officers, we sat there for a good three, four hours waiting for the detective unit to get everyone's statements. They finally grab me, we did interviews. And I just broke down. I was held there for a few hours. The police said, "Right now, it sounds like it was self-defense. You didn't go to the bar looking for a fight." So I was released that morning.
I went home, had a cup of coffee. My mom took out $3,000. We went to the gun shop and bought guns. For a year, I carried a pistol. I would sleep with it, I would eat with it. Then I viewed that me having that pistol was fucking me up worse. So I got rid of it.
So the morning after the fight outside Brewhaus, Hinsey was still alive?
BILL LARSON Yeah. About a week later, Hinsey ended up dying in the ICU. They got him stabilized in the St. John's ER [but] because he'd been down for so long without oxygen, there was really no brain activity, from my understanding. He expired a week later from his injuries. When he was still alive, though, my buddy calls up the ICU and talks to [Hinsey's] girlfriend, the one that cheated on my friend 12 years ago. He talks to her and pretended that he's a skinhead that lives in California. He recorded the conversation. He was like, "What's going on?" She said, "Me and Jason were sitting at home, all the guys [the skinheads] called and said, 'Hey, we're gonna jump the Larsons. They're at the bar. Get down here fast'. So he [Hinsey] left and went down and I guess they were beating one of them up pretty bad and he stabbed Jason." My buddy recorded all this and he got it on tape. He gave me the tape — then I went down and talked to a detective. That day, they said the investigation is over. It's justifiable homicide. Self-defense.
When you found out Jason Hinsey was dead, what did you do?
ROGER LARSON I put a gun in my mouth. Does that make any sense? To this day, when I really think about it, I get like that. [He begins crying.] When I start thinking about… I'll start visualizing it in my head and before I know it a couple hours have passed.
BILL LARSON After we heard that he had died, it got worse. It was, "Oh, my God, our lives are ruined. Our lives are never gonna be the same." I felt bad that someone lost their life and I still feel bad about it. But, you know, these people, they attack one person with five, six, seven other people. Do they just expect someone to lay down and say, "OK, you can beat me, do whatever you need to do and I'll just take it?"
Where did you go after the attack?
ROGER LARSON My whole family converged on one house, and we all stayed in one house for a month. We didn't leave. We didn't go anywhere.
BILL LARSON No. You don't go outside. That's the last place you go. If you need something, my mom goes and gets it. And she doesn't leave the house unless she's got her .380 [handgun] in her pocket. I made my mom go and buy my kids new clothes because I was too afraid to go home and get them.
What did the skinheads do after Hinsey died?
ROGER LARSON The detectives had an undercover unit on top of their house, sitting down the street watching them. At the time, Hinsey's crew, all these guys, lived under one roof. They had some skinheads from St. Louis come up and they all piled in a van. They had a bunch of weapons and bats and shit like that. And they were coming over here to do a hit. The police in the unmarked car called it in. One of the detectives got on the scene and pulled them out and was like, "Hey, just to let you know, we're fucking watching you guys."
BILL LARSON Every time the skinheads loaded up in a van, they [police officers] pulled them over: "What are you guys doing? Where you guys going? You planning on attacking the Larsons?" The skinheads, they'd say, "No, no, we're so appreciative of Bill trying to help Jason that night." And they were just, you know, blowing smoke up the detectives' butts.
Have the skinheads gone after your family?
BILL LARSON I've had a skinhead follow my pregnant wife around Wal-Mart with a baseball bat. This was three years ago. My wife was like eight months pregnant, huge. She does the grocery shopping. I find my wife, and she has this look of dread on her face. I instantly know something's wrong, there's a skinhead here. I knew it. As soon as I saw her face, she said, "There was a skinhead following me around with a baseball bat." I'm on the defensive, right then and there. I'm ready to kill this guy. I don't care what happens — this is my wife and my child. I went back [into the store] and picked up a T-ball bat. My [EMT] partner who's working that day is Doug. He's six-and-a-half feet tall. He's not fat. I've seen the man pick up a 200-pound person, off his feet, from a standing position.
As soon as I'm starting to calm down, this skinhead comes out of the store. My partner Doug has this T-ball bat in his hand. It looks like a small billy club in this man's hand. Doug [says], "How you doing today?" Skinhead stops in his tracks and looks at me: "I'm doing F-ing fine." He's Australian so he's got an Australian accent. Gideon McQueen is his name. He got into some trouble with the Southern Cross Hammerskins before he came to the States. Nothing happened, no violence happened. I'm just letting this guy know, don't mess with us. Ten of you can catch one of us at a point in time. But at some point in life, 10 of us are going to catch one of you out.
What other hostile encounters between the two of you and the 1911 skins have occurred?
ROGER LARSON [My brother and his son], they go to this Thai restaurant to pick up a to-go order. They go in and the guy behind the counter goes, "Well the order's not ready. Why don't you go sit down in our waiting room? It'll be up in a minute."
BILL LARSON I hear somebody clear his throat. I don't think anything of it. My son and I are talking. I hear him again clear the throat and then I got a bad feeling. So I look up and there's a group of them, it's like a table full of skinheads.
I'm thinking to myself, "Wow. What are the chances? Well, actually, pretty damn good in a town of 100,000 people." It was going to happen eventually, but here I am: no gun, no knife, I wasn't planning on going in public, so I'm unarmed. So this skinhead looks up at me. He goes, "You're gonna have to leave or you're gonna have a real serious fucking problem."
There's a deputy in the next room. He's having lunch with his girlfriend. I walk up to the deputy and say, 'Hey, I really hate to bother you, but this is what just happened. They just threatened me with violence to leave the restaurant." I explained the back history to him. His response was, "Okay, just have a seat here with me until your order's ready."
I get my stuff and leave. I go home and get my gun and come back. I'm telling you, man, I'd reached a point in my mind where 10 years in prison seemed better than having my head on a swivel, looking behind me for these guys the rest of my life. Thank God they were gone.
ROGER LARSON When it comes to that little boy [Bill's son], they expanded or broadened the horizons of this little conflict. They've included my family. And instead of being fearful, it has given me anger, and I am so enraged by them doing this and scaring the hell out of my little nephew, my brother's son, that I just can't stand it any more.
You're identical twins. Do you think they want to harm both of you, or they just can't tell who's who?
BILL LARSON I thought for a long time, they'll take either one of us because they don't know which one's which. Now I'm more along the line that they just don't care. We were both there that night. Roger stabbed him. I tried to save him. It doesn't matter. They want both of us. And they'll take both of us.
Have they also posted online threats?
ROGER LARSON The same asshole that confronted my brother at the restaurant and scared my nephew, now this brain trust has a MySpace page. It says on there, "For those of you responsible for Choppa, your days are numbered. I will always remember. Watch your back cunt." Choppa was Jason Hinsey's nickname.
BILL LARSON Another one put on their MySpace page a month ago: "I'm not going to do anything right now. I'm gonna wait 'til my kids are grown, because my kids are more important than anything, and when my kids are grown, I'm gonna kill them [the Larsons]."
How do you explain all this to your own children?
BILL LARSON My son, who's 12, he knows what happened. He knows that Uncle D [for Dennis, Roger's middle name] killed somebody. He knows that the man who Uncle D killed was a bad person and there are still bad people who wouldn't hesitate to harm one of us if we ran into them.
I don't ever want my son to see me shoot somebody. I don't ever want my son to see me get attacked. That's my biggest fear — that I'll be at Wal-Mart with my wife and kids, I get attacked and I've got to shoot one of them, or all of them. I don't want violence with them. For God's sakes, I don't want anybody else getting hurt. But I ain't gonna let them touch one of my kids. I ain't gonna let 'em touch my wife. I ain't gonna let 'em touch me.