Intelligence Report: Standoff with Antigovernment Extremist Nears 10th Year, Texas Authorities Bide Time to Avoid Bloodshed

Authorities near the East Texas town of Trinidad have been locked in a standoff with an antigovernment extremist and his family for almost 10 years, a stalemate that has raised the question of when it's worth risking bloodshed to enforce the law, according to the latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, released today.

John Joe Gray and several relatives retreated to the family home after he got into an altercation with state troopers during a traffic stop in 1999. Gray, a militia enthusiast, threatened violence against any deputies attempting to arrest him. After almost 10 years, the family continues to defy the law, holed up on a 47-acre compound in rural Henderson County. The sheriff's department has chosen to wait Gray out rather than storm the compound guarded by armed family members.

"This standoff in East Texas raises profound questions about enforcing the law in the face of potential violence from a well-armed, antigovernment extremist," said Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report, a quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right. "With antigovernment sentiment growing across the country, these are questions that, unfortunately, other law enforcement agencies may have to confront."

Gray has not only escaped prosecution but may have helped his daughter defy a court order granting custody of her children to an ex-husband, who doesn't know whether his two sons are living in the compound. Gray is also several years delinquent on his property taxes.

Gray, who was a self-employed carpenter with no prior criminal record, was known as a fervently religious, far-right militiaman. He hosted gatherings of the Texas Constitutional Militia and was involved with the secessionist group, Republic of Texas. That group had a seven-day standoff with Texas Rangers in 1997 after its leader and several followers kidnapped a couple at gunpoint. Gray was also affiliated with the Embassy of Heaven, which describes its members as citizens of heaven obeying the government of God, not secular authorities.

Today, Henderson County authorities continue to bide their time.

"I see no reason right at this minute to storm a compound where officers could get killed," said Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt, the fourth sheriff to reach such a conclusion during the past decade. "My position is to sit and wait."

Also in the Winter 2009 issue of the Intelligence Report:

  • "Night at the Museum" profiles Marek Chodakiewicz, a historian who helps oversee the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum but whose controversial views have been called anti-Semitic.

  • "Crossing the Line" describes how former congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has increasingly taken up with anti-Semites, including one of Britain's leading Holocaust-denial activists.

  • "Funding FAIR" tells how a leading philanthropist who has long supported major environmental organizations is funding the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a harshly anti-immigrant organization that has been named a hate group by the SPLC for its white supremacist ties.

  • "Doing 'Right' in Vegas" describes how a Las Vegas man named James Edward McCrink has been quietly funding groups like the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review and the racist New Century Foundation. McCrink's Do Right Foundation once even backed a group led by a one-time principal of the American Nazi Party.