Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler has designated Harold Ray Redfeairn, a 49-year-old felon convicted of shooting a police officer five times, as his successor and the group's new national director.
The decision was prompted by the death of Butler's earlier pick, Neuman Britton. Redfeairn had been Ohio state leader for the neo-Nazi group from 1992 through 1998.
Just a year before his accession, Redfeairn didn't sound too thrilled about Aryan Nations. Asked in court why he was no longer a member, he testified that it was because the organization had "turned into a refuge for derelicts, ne'er-do-wells, drunks and people like that."
After the recent announcement, Redfeairn told a reporter that Aryan Nations would be relocating to Pennsylvania, to the property of the new "director of information," August Kreis. Butler, however, insisted that the headquarters would never leave northern Idaho.
The spat is only the latest hitch for a hate group that has been struggling since September 2000. That's when Aryan Nations, Butler and several security guards lost a $6.3 million civil lawsuit to two people attacked by Aryan guards.
The group was forced to relinquish its 20-acre Hayden Lake, Idaho, compound during a bankruptcy sale; this summer some of its old buildings were burned to the ground.
When Redfeairn repeatedly shot a police officer during an Ohio robbery in 1979, the critically wounded officer was saved only by a bulletproof vest.
Before his 1985 conviction for aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated murder, Redfeairn — described by court psychologists as a paranoid schizophrenic — spent four years in a mental institution until he was deemed psychologically fit to stand trial.
Redfeairn also has separate convictions for aggravated menacing, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly conduct and drunken driving. In 1996, his mother accused him of threatening to kill her, although she later withdrew her accusations. He's also been accused of being a deadbeat dad.
Despite this history, Redfeairn was called as a character witness for Butler at the civil trial in 2000. Redfeairn claimed that he had resigned from the Aryan Nations because Butler advocated nonviolence.
Videotape evidence played during Redfeairn's cross-examination showed him in Butler's Aryan Nations pulpit, in Butler's presence, explaining that to "grab an AK-47 or an M16 and run and plug some nigger in the head" was an act of "conscience" that Redfeairn "won't condemn."
Butler said nothing to Redfeairn to distance himself from that remark.