October 2003 - Playboy Magazine (US)
Siege at Rainbow Farm
Author: Dean Kuipers
In 2001 a Hippie Campground Famous for Peace, Love and Weed Erupted in Violence and Death. Was It Another Ruby Ridge or the Collapse of a Failed Utopia?
On the day that he purchased Rainbow Farm, Tom Crosslin said destiny had led him to the place. By the late 1990s the farm would become a well-known stop on the hippie trail, a scenic overlook for the migratory flocks of travelers and Phish fans who crisscrossed the country. For thousands of blue-collar pilgrims who stopped there looking for a few days of fun and freedom in Michigan's vacation lands, it was a benevolent little campground. And on any other Labor Day they would have been there: thousands of happy stoners setting up tents for Crosslin's annual marijuana-legalization fest, a party he'd named Roach Roast. But on Friday morning, August 31, 2001, he was storming around, telling the last of the local kids to leave.
"Get the hell out of here," Crosslin said, "and don't you dare come back. Just watch the news tonight."
Crosslin and his lover, Rolland "Rollie" Rohm, were in desperate straits. They were facing drug and firearms charges brought against them by a local prosecutor, Scott Teter. If they lost the case, they were looking at serious jail time and the loss of their property under drug-war forfeiture laws. They had posted bail, but it was now in danger of being revoked. Instead of showing up at a bond hearing that morning, they had made the momentous decision to blow it off and stay on the farm. They were going to fight for their rights, but not in a court room.
When the road was quiet, Crosslin walked to his production facility, a double wide modular unit that has served as a greenroom during outdoor concerts by Merle Haggard and Tommy Chong. It was now packed with bales of straw. Crosslin set it ablaze, sending the red-winged blackbirds on a nearby pond into a riot of chatter.
Soon Rainbow Farm's other structures were burning: First a wooden booth where visitors had traded $65 for tickets to three-daylong hemp festivals, then an old pump house that served as Crosslin's home, and a new one he'd built for his licensed campground and RV hookups. Finally, the fire consumed his prize: a quarter-million-dollar main campground building housing a coffee shop, a general store, a head shop, the main office, showers for a dozen people and Cass County's best laundromat. Acrid black smoke billowed into the sky above 54 acres of woods and meadow, and all across the country people read the signals: The four-year public feud between Tom Crosslin and Cass County prosecutor Scott Teter had finally come to a head.
Five days later, after a standoff that involved the sheriff's department, the Michigan state police and the FBI, men lay dead and lives were forever altered. The events at Rainbow Farm quickly became front-page news but were even more quickly overshadowed by the September 11 terrorist attacks. The story - and the troubling issues it raised - seemed forgotten. Until now. Court documents and extensive interviews with survivors make it possible to re-create the events leading up to the siege and the escalation of violence at Rainbow Farm. It's the story of the destruction of a flawed utopia, a place where a group of outsiders made an attempt at redemption and success but ended up facing the full force of America's drug laws.
Tom and Rollie
In 1993 Crosslin bought a decrepit farmhouse on 34 rolling acres of woods and cornfield outside the town of Vandalia, Michigan, He paid $35,000 in cash - a steal - raising the money by selling one of his many properties in Elkhart, Indiana, a building that still bears his logo. When Crosslin moved to Rainbow Farm, it was partly to establish a new household with Rohm. But Crosslin had a larger plan: to build a Shangri-law cum campground where he could live peacefully with his extended family and friends. Two of his employees, Sheetrock man Morelle Yonkers (a Vietnam-era vet) and his girlfriend , Amy Jo, moved into the old sugar shack and began planting a giant garden. Doug Leinbach, an ex-banker who became the farm's manager, moved into a big white teepee. Soon Derrik DeCraene, an event promoter, joined them. Over the years, the cast of characters expanded to include a carpenter named Whoa Boy and That Guy, a spare hand. Crosslin was their leader, Crosslin was the boss. And Rainbow Farm was where they were all going to reinvent their lives.
Crosslin was born in Manchester, Tennessee, the third of four children. His family moved to Elkhart when he was still a child. By the age of 14 or so, Crosslin and his older brothers were into beer and pot. Theirs was a world of muscle cars, factory work, girls and getting stoned. "Tom's family was like mine - we were always renting homes," says Leinbach. "They were not wealthy. They didn't have running water in Tennessee. But they were loving."
Like his three siblings, Crosslin quit school around 10th grade and went to work. It was 1971. At one of his first jobs - managing a car wash - the boss shorted his paycheck, and Crosslin borrowed a gun from a friend and got his money. He was arrested and served six months in jail. Crosslin ran with some bikers and got married to a woman with a yellow Harley. He was divorced from her amicably after a year or two, when he came to terms with the fact that he was gay or bisexual. Leinbach, who is also gay, never suspected a thing. "This was not the kind of thing you talked about openly in Elkhart," he says.
Crosslin had plenty of friends and a knack for making money. He started a steeplejack business raising flagpoles. The business evolved into a full-blown service company, providing security and rehabbing buildings. At the same time, Leinbach was managing distressed properties for an Elkhart bank - repos and estate settlements - and he routinely hired Crosslin's company. Soon Crosslin began buying properties using land contracts, sometimes acquiring them with down payments as small as $1,000.
Crosslin owned at last 20 properties at one point and employed as many as 80 people. Men came to Crosslin when they were in trouble - recently divorced, paroled, dishonorably discharged, closeted. He'd put them on a crew and give them a place to live. Crosslin brought out the pride in troubled people. At quitting time, his houses on Prairie and Perkins streets often turned into big party places. There would be cookouts, cases of beer, vegetables from his gardens.
According to a friend in Elkhart's gay community, Crosslin was promiscuous until he met Rollie Rohm. Rohm was 16 years old, a slim, longhaired soccer player with a mustache, who had dropped out of school and was looking for work. He had recently fathered a child with Leslie Pletcher, a good-looking woman eight years his senior. They married but quickly divorced. Their newborn son, Robert, lived with Pletcher.
Crosslin, then 34, pushed the rest of his world aside for Rohm. He bought him a red sports car and moved him into his house, where they would sit and smoke pot in the living room hot tub. According to Rohm's stepmother, who had worked with him in school since he was four, he was "a little slow" and suffered from hyperactivity. His natural parents were out of the picture, and the two thinks that really interested him were rock music and soccer. In Crosslin, Rohm found someone who would nurture him.
"They didn't live a gay lifestyle," says Leinbach. "They didn't want to embarrass anyone. They loved Robert more than anything." Crosslin took Rohm and his son fishing and blueberry picking. He liked to drive, and they would all load into his white Rolls-Royce, with its 'HEMP 1' vanity plate, and cruse through the countryside listening to oldies and Motown. In 1994, a year after moving into the sprawling house at Rainbow Farm, Rohm, with Crosslin's help, won custody of Robert.
"When Tom bought Rainbow Farm, he wanted to make his living there," Leinbach says. "He didn't want to run into Elkhart and tend to rental homes anymore. When he needed money, he'd sell a house. Then he's buy a new one, so he's always have assets. But he'd buy distressed homes, and we'd have to renovate them. Even in the middle of a big event, we'd have to drop everything for an emergency plumbing job."
"Tom wanted to do a campground," says attorney Don France, a former prosecutor who handled most of Crosslin's civil cases. "I have an RV camp too. I told him how to get a permit. Campgrounds are transitory, overnight spots along a highway or destination-type places on a river or lake. Tom didn't have any of that, but he represented a lifestyle. People could do their own thing and not be bothered."
"We wanted the farm to be a family campground," Leinbach says. "Most people with alternative lifestyles find it hard to go to a public campground, for fear of arrest or harassment by other campers. This was never a gay campground. Tom like to say his ideas were messages from the hippie gods. We believed in partaking of marijuana privately, responsibly.
"We were tired of seeing or friends, relatives and others jailed because of marijuana use," he continues. "Too many families destroyed, to many tax dollars wasted, just for use of a god-given herb. The sense of injustice grew, and then Tom decided, 'We're going to throw hemp festivals here.'"
When Crosslin decided to hold festivals at Rainbow Farm, he did his research. He would allow visitors to smoke on his land, which is a misdemeanor in Michigan. Technically, a cop can't enter private property to issue a ticket for a misdemeanor. Gathering to smoke pot in the house, Crosslin knew, would constitute a felony called "maintaining a drug house," but no such law exists for an open field. This was the thin green line Crosslin drew around Rainbow Farm, and for five years it protected all of them.
Beginning in 1996, the two annual Rainbow Farm events, HempAid on Memorial Day and Roach Roast on Labor Day, were part Woodstock, part union picnic. They were family-oriented affairs, with Rohm's son, Robert, wheeling his golf cart among the soft-drink stands and hemp clothing vendors and representatives from the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.
Onstage speakers railed against government oppression. Guests included the chairman of the Van Buren County Libertarian Party, High Times editor Steve Hager and MC5 manager and White Panther Party jefe John Sinclair, who, in 1969, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing two joints. Most of them, unlike Crosslin or Rohm, could trace a lineage to radicalism of the 1960s, when they played to a more engaged audience. At Rainbow Farm gatherings it was hard to tell if anyone was paying attention.
A church group even showed up twice to evangelize. "We got a lot of lost souls out here," Crosslin said. "Might as well let them have a few."
These events from 1996 through 2001 made Rainbow Farm the center of pot activism in Michigan. They each cost more than $100,000 to produce, and Crosslin needed to sell 2,500 tickets to break even and 3,000 to show a meaningful profit. Only one show (featuring Tommy Chong) ever approached this number. "We were pretty much operating to keep operating," says DeCraene, Rainbow's promoter. "If we fell on our butts, Tom just reached into the old piggy bank."
Crosslin was confident that the shows would eventually become viable, but his determination to build Rainbow Farm into a private utopia was getting in the way of profitability. "We'd spend $10,000 for Porta Potties," Leinbach says. "We spent tens of thousands on bands, thousands on radios, thousands on golf carts and on medics and supplies to handle emergencies."
"We had our own tent city. We had our own economy," says DeCraene. "It was a beautiful thing. If we were a humanitarian project, we would have gotten awards. But instead we were made out to be villains and pot smokers."
Everyday life at the farm was centered on the nuclear cluster of Crosslin, Rohm and Robert. "Tom and Rollie were family," says Leinbach. "The wanted their son to know that - contrary to what the DARE programs told him in school - his parents weren't criminals. They were normal people."
"Before they started the festivals, there was a government abuse/neglect charge," says France. "It didn't amount to much - just an allegation that they were homosexuals and had this boy around. But there was no indication of inappropriate activity in the presence of the boy. It was trumped-up. And the county backed off." Robert took a social worker out to fetch still-warm eggs from the henhouse. According to Leinbach, she came back glowing and declared the farm "a wholesome environment in which to raise a child."
"That boy, he was loved by so many people," says Leinbach. "And he was a good, generous young man. That boy offered us strength at times when we didn't think we could go on. All we had to do was see his smiling face and we were ready to go at it another day."
Not everyone was as malleable as Robert. Crosslin put his faith in human nature on the line when he assembled large crowds of strangers. He tried to impress his philosophy on them: no hard shit. If a marijuana high isn't good enough anymore, get better marijuana. The whole point of the gathering was to uphold privacy rights - it was civil disobedience. Show the world that you can use marijuana and be responsible. Take care of your children. Work. Be productive. And change the laws.
At the start of the 1999 season, Crosslin's organizers were bent on doing a better job of promoting the festivals, and they purchased lighted signboards along the highway. The state even put in an official campground sign. With the higher profile, they also drew some unwanted attention. Bob File, a member of a prominent family that owns a huge hog and dairy farm adjacent to Rainbow Farm, set up a traveling barbecue and sold pork sandwiches during the events. He says the cops didn't care about the festivals until Crosslin advertised out on M-60. "If Tom had been more discreet," he says, "there wouldn't have been much they could do. But once he pissed those guys off, there was no turning back."
In the four years that Cass County prosecutor Scott Teter tried to nail Crosslin, they never once talked face-to-face, other than in court. "I understand that Crosslin did some positive things with the community," Teter, 40, now says. He is a law-and-order man whose moral vision is uncluttered by shades of gray. His career has been marked by an ability to distill life into a series of simple themes and to repeat them over and over.
One of those themes was that Rainbow Farm was a drug mart. "Crosslin believed in the legalization of marijuana," Teter says. "I don't have any problem with that - in fact, our system encourages it. But at some point, his gatherings became 'Come to this property and use, distribute and deal any narcotic you choose'."
Teter's office in the courthouse was decorated with awards received for work on child support and photos of his family, pillars of local society in Edwardsburg, Cass County's more affluent district. His father, Jack Teter, is a county commissioner and owner of a machine shop, and his mother, Marian, ran Teter Realty. An anti-abortion Republican who campaigned on child welfare and antidrug issues, he said after his election, "I believe I was guided by the Lord." He went on the Weekend Today show to talk about his billboard slogan: "If your sex partner is under 16, they won't be when you get out of prison."
Soon after Teter took office, in December 1996, he began targeting Rainbow Farm. On Memorial Day the sheriff and the state police set up a "holiday sobriety checkpoint" on the only road into or out of the farm. All weekend, cars were stopped and drivers were questioned. Many were ticketed.
Teter says he didn't want to start a war. "We made a decision several years ago that, no, for misdemeanor use of marijuana I was not going marshal 500 troops and go in and provoke a violent confrontation," he says.
But word was getting out: Go to Rainbow Farm, and you will be harassed - or worse. Ticket sales to the festivals started dropping. "They denied us the opportunity to make a living," Leinbach says. "We don't know how many thousands of people they chased away."
In 1998 Teter sent an undercover narc into the festivals but couldn't find enough evidence to prosecute its organizers. He sent a letter, as he now says, "putting Crosslin on notice" that he knew about "hard drugs" there. When fliers went up announcing HempAid '99 Teter sent another letter, dated March 24, 1999. This time he threatened to seize Crosslin's property if hard drugs were found. The letter sent a cold shock through Cass County. Overnight, what had been a political chess match turned into a blood feud.
"That fucking son of a bitch, who does he think he is?" ranted Crosslin when he received Teter's letter. Crosslin, the self-made hillbilly real estate magnate, had studied up on drug-ware forfeiture law. He stomped around the farmhouse, screaming about it. It was a tool meant to break up drug cartels and close crack houses, not destroy meant like him who were operating in the open.
"He said, 'Sit down and write that son of a bitch a letter,'" says Leinbach. Rohm sat by while Crosslin dictated. "Tom was pissed. I said, 'Are you sure you want to say that?' He said, 'Hell yes, that's exactly what I want to say.'"
And so Crosslin shot back his reply: "Our friends at the Michigan Militia have their ideas of how we should handle your threats...."
This was not just a random invocation. The Michigan Militia means something in Cass County, a right-wing, blue-collar enclave where politics is often Republican in public and libertarian in private. A number of Constitution-worshiping locals worked security during Rainbow Farm festivals, though Tom Wayne, the militia's official spokesman, declared that potheads could not be militiamen.
Crosslin added a coda to his letter: "I have discussed this with my family, and we are all prepared to die on this land before we allow it to be stolen from us. How should be we be prepared to die? Are you planning to burn us out like they did in Waco, or will you have snipers shoot us through our windows like the Weavers at Ruby Ridge?"
"Well, that sort of set the tone that we weren't going to be able to talk this thing out," Teter says dryly. He saw the letter for what it was: a shout of defiance. It caused him to lean even harder on Crosslin. "Crosslin was saying, 'I'm going to do what I'm going to do, and I don't think that you're going to do anything about it,'" Teter says. "I took an oath to do something about it."
"Tom wasn't eloquent, but he was articulate on his points," says Don France. "In essence, it was, 'Leave private citizens alone. If they want to smoke a little pot, they can smoke a little pot. If they want to grow it and make a product out of it, well and good too.' I'm not pro or anti - I don't smoke it, never have - but the thing is, so what? You want to worship the Great Pumpkin instead of a single supreme deity, you can do that, too."
Teter went to work to shut down Rainbow Farm. He began issuing nuisance-abatement injunctions. The first was for violating a "large gathering" ordinance. Crosslin got around this by getting 501©3 nonprofit status through the pot-friendly Columbus Institute of Contemporary Journalism. Then Teter tried to get Crosslin for not having a campground license. A sympathizer inside the courthouse slipped Crosslin the proper paperwork, and he got a temporary license within days.
HempAid '99 went ahead as planned and turned out to be Rainbow Farm's finest hour. Tommy Chong and his sons, billed as Chong and the Family Stoned, played to 2,800 people who'd paid $65 a head. That Crosslin was able to pull it off in the face of Teter's obstacles thrilled his employees as well as national pot activists.
Undaunted, Teter had sent narcs from the Michigan state police's Southwest Enforcement Team on a fishing expedition during both festivals in 1999 . "Our officers, literally within 10 minutes, made their first buy," says Teter. During the next two years, narcs bought LSD, pot, hash, coke, meth, mushrooms and prescription drugs." Teter acknowledges that this happens at concerts everywhere. "The difference is the knowledge of the owner," he says. "Could Tom reasonably have known that there was the ongoing distribution of drugs on his property? The answer is yes."
However, none of the dozen or so buys was ever traced to Crosslin. It was posted policy (on its website and at the farm's entrance) that Rainbow Farm would remove anyone selling dope of any kind. More important, before the federal Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act took effect in 2003, concert promoters were protected from the behavior of the paying public.
"They had tons of undercover cops there," says DeCraene. "We laughed about it. The only thing that undercover cops would find was a kid from Chicago trying to peddle a bag."
Still, Teter had put his endgame in motion. Emboldened by its early success, the enforcement team requisitioned a motor home and equipped it with hidden video cameras, taping naked hippies and people of all kinds getting stoned. Teter was barraging a Cass County judge named Mike Dodge with information that couldn't convict Crosslin but was designed to leave a negative impression. It was only a matter of time before Teter would have Crosslin fighting for his life in the courts.
In the meantime, he fought for his life in the marketplace. The year 2000 was not a good one for Crosslin's enterprises, and his crew went on an all-out push to make money. He had finished building the camp store and RV improvements, which took several hundred thousand dollars out of his pockets. To its usual schedule, the farm added the High Times World Hemp Entertainment Expo and a show by Merle Haggard, but it lost $45,000 on these events, mostly because of poor advertising but also because of its growing narc reputation.
"We were living off chili and nachos from the store." says Leinbach. "That's why I left in September 2000. My father's house was being foreclosed in Elkhart. My bills weren't being paid. Tom, Rollie, Derek and I - we couldn't make a living." In the past, Crosslin had sold properties to keep his quixotic vision alive. And in 2001, strapped for cash, he was forced to make a move he had sworn he never would: He took out a mortgage on the farm itself.
No Turning Back
In the spring of 2001 Crosslin and Rohm decided to build a hydroponics room for growing pot in the farmhouse's basement. "They asked my opinion, and I told them, 'it's the most horrible idea I've ever heard in my life,'" says DeCraene. "Have you guys ever heard the saying, You're betting the farm?' We were the biggest pot activists in the state of Michigan, for crying out loud. But they were so high-profile they couldn't get any pot. And this was their solution."
On May 9, 2001 DeCraene woke up with Michigan state troopers in ski masks pointing guns at his head. He was sleeping in the office of the store building. "I was on the couch, and the first thing I saw was a rifle pointed at my head. The cops were so scared, their gun barrels were shaking. I'm waking up out of a dead sleep and thinking, Oh my god, these guys are going to shoot me and just say they thought I was trying to draw a weapon."
"What's your name?" the cop shouted.
"Leave the building. Now!"
"Where are the drugs?"
DeCraene staggered outside and found Crosslin and Rohm sitting in front of the farmhouse. "They herded us into a circle and left us sitting in the sun with noting to eat or drink until three o'clock. It was horrible."
The heavily armed squad had come to support the state IRS on a tax warrant. Teter had an informant at the farm who alleged that employees had been paid under the table. But the troopers found the grow room and confiscated 301 starter plants. Cops also found a loaded nine-millimeter pistol and two loaded shotguns. Crosslin and Rohm were busted for manufacturing marijuana (which carried a 15 year maximum penalty). They were also charged with firearms violations and with maintaining a drug house (each of these carried a two-year penalty). Considering that Crosslin was a convicted felon (for the 1970s robbery and a 1995 bar fight), he was potentially facing more than 15 years in prison. Rohm was probably looking at a minimum of two.
The bust was big news - the state police sent out a triumphant press release announcing the arrests. When Teter arrived on the scene, Crosslin saw then-attorney general Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat who is now Michigan's governor, in the car with him. Teter immediately got an injunction banning all future festivals. By the time Crosslin and Rohm were bailed out of jail, Teter had already filed for the forfeiture of Rainbow Farm.
"We were so broke," says DeCraene. "We had deposits out. All our cash was gone. But we were two and a half weeks from a huge moneymaking weekend that would have set us right."
A week later, the government's battle with Tom Crosslin took a far more personal turn: Robert didn't come home from school. At Teter's behest, sheriffs under the direction of the Family Independence Agency had taken the handsome 12-year-old out of class and placed him in foster care with a former police chief from Edwardsburg. Rohm was disconsolate. He had sought to insulate Robert from the abandonment he had felt as a child. Now everything was lost. Crosslin fell into a sustained rage.
"Tom was very defiant. But my impression of Rollie was that he was scared," says Dori Leo, a former prosecutor and an attorney with Vlachos and Vlachos in Kalamazoo, Michigan who took their case. Leo told Crosslin that if they could get the tax warrant thrown out - and she believed he had a good shot at that - all the other charges would be thrown out too. But she didn't understand that Crosslin knew he wouldn't ever be able to get Robert back to Rohm. He'd failed. His festivals were a bust. His employees had been forced to leave. He had no money. His corner of the world had been invaded; his lifestyle and his vision crushed.
"Tom knew it was all over, and if he went to court they were going to issue order after order," says Don France. "That's why he acted the way he did."
Crosslin and Rohm closed ranks. Rohm got weekly visits with his son, and at the first one Robert sat on his lap and they both sobbed. Rohm struggled to meet the two conditions that would allow them to be reunited: He moved into the Bonine Mansion, another house owned by Crosslin a couple of miles away, in order to separate from him, and he went to rehab to quit smoking pot. He didn't achieve either goal. Crosslin even held one pathetic gathering at Rainbow Farm later in the summer, attended by a dozen or so people. Two of them were Teter's narcs. Rohm and Crosslin were seen smoking weed, and Teter took action to revoke their bail. Aside from compounding the couple's dire legal troubles, their error ensured that it would be a long time before they could even dream of regaining custody of Robert.
During the week leading up to their bail hearing on Friday, August 31, 2001, Crosslin and Rohm literally gave away the store. Leinbach, security chief Travis Hopkins and others turned up to claim different pieces of their past. If the government was going to take his property, Crosslin wanted it to have as little value as possible. And so on Friday morning he began burning down his buildings.
The Siege of Rainbow Farm
Buggy Brown, a regular at the campground, was the boyfriend of Nikki Lester, who managed the farm's general store. On August 31 he was over at the File farm next door, milking cows, when he saw smoke pouring into the sky. He rushed to Rainbow Farm and found Rohm dressed in camouflage, carrying a Ruger Mini-14 .223 assault rifle. Brown sized things up and said, "Smoke one last bowl?" They burned one in Brown's pipe as the buildings crackled. Rohm then said, "It's time. You need to leave."
Brown, upset, called Sheriff Joe Underwood and warned him not to send in firefighters. He didn't want anyone hurt. Underwood then sealed off Pemberton Road, about a mile from the farmhouse, which was the only way in or out. Later that day, .223-size bullets were fired at a WNDU-TV news helicopter, putting a hole in a rear stabilizer. Later someone also shot at a Michigan state police plane. The shootings brought the FBI to Rainbow Farm. Down Blacks Road a converted school was requisitioned as a staging area and filled with dozens of government cars, National Guard helicopters and light armored vehicles. The siege had begun.
By about 12:30 P.M., Underwood found Brown and asked him to be his messenger to Rainbow Farm. Brown walked the mile of dirt road from the barricades at Pemberton and Blacks. He found Crosslin cradling the "Tom ordered me out of there," recalls Brown. "I left empty-handed." He went twice more that day, once to deliver Dori Leo's cell phone, which quickly died, and once at sundown. "My last time out I jokingly said I'd bring them breakfast, and they gave me an order for McDonald's." He saw this as a sign of hope.
Others were less optimistic. That afternoon, Crosslin's dad, along with his brother Jim, his mother, Ruby, and his stepdad, Luther Batey, were allowed to drive out to the farm. "I had a few beers with him," says Jim tearfully. "I told him I loved him. He wasn't coming out."
By nightfall Rainbow Farm was deadly silent. State police snipers crawled into positions in the woods from which they could see the house. Inside, Crosslin and Rohm were drinking beer. They had no electricity, no phone, no water - everything had been taken out by the fires.
On Saturday morning FBI profile Roy Johnson took over communications with Brown, who began by saying, "I want to tell you right now I'm a pot smoker." Johnson sent him out to deliver the McDonald's breakfast. Brown was being debriefed after his first trip when Teter showed up at the command post.
"My girlfriend heard Teter ask someone, 'What is she doing up here? She's one of them,'" says Brown. He threatened to quit unless Teter left. The FBI shooed Tether away. He never came back.
When the cops managed to get Crosslin to take a call on the cell phone, he demanded to talk to Robert. The request was denied. The conversations ended with Crosslin shouting, cursing the FBI, yelling that they had no right to bargain with "their kid."
Sometime between sundown Sunday and noon on Labor Day morning, Crosslin and Rohm unloaded automatic weapons fire on a light armored vehicle, which they referred to jokingly as Sparky. Occasionally they stood on the porch and yelled, "Come and get it, motherfuckers!" When Johnson asked (via Brown) what would bring an end to the standoff, Crosslin sent back the message: "Send Teter in here, and you can all be home fucking your wives tonight."
By dawn on Labor Day, 120 law enforcement officers were on the scene, many along the perimeter of Rainbow Farm. That morning, Brandon Peoples, an 18-year old neighbor and regular at the campground coffee shop, decided to walk onto the farm through the cornfield and managed to slip past the cops. He was determined to convince Crosslin to turn himself in. Crosslin was pissed off to see him but said he could use help on an errand: He needed company on a mission to scrounge up some food from a neighbor's abandoned cabin about a quarter mile away. Crosslin carried his Ruger and a two-way radio and stepped outside. Peoples, holding a feather - he said it was for good luck - joined him. The two men stood by the door and listened for something, anything. A snap of a twig. A cough, perhaps - any sound that would give away the position of FBI snipers. The pair stepped down a two-track path to the south running parallel to the oiled dirt of Pemberton Road and left Rohm behind inside the farmhouse, also with a two way radio.
Peoples walked in silence behind Crosslin, who had told him falsely that the roads were mined and set up with trip wires. Peoples tried his best to walk exactly in Crosslin's footsteps.
They headed down and traversed acres of swamp bottom. Crosslin shouldered-in the front door of a small cinder-block cabin belonging to Carl "Butch" McDonald. The old man called Crosslin a "damn good neighbor" and had cleared out days earlier when Crosslin warned him there might be trouble. Crosslin and Peoples grabbed a coffeemaker, coffee, steaks, bread, five cartons of cigarettes and other supplies and put them in plastic trash bags. McDonald's house was also full of guns. Crosslin offered Butch's .22 rifle to Peoples to replace the feather. "Don't you want to stick around and have fun?' he asked. Peoples refused the gun.
When they returned to the farmhouse they realized they had forgotten the coffeepot. So they went back to McDonald's house and while returning stopped on the steep knoll dubbed Mount This, a favorite spot for festival security workers because of its expansive views of the house and road. Crosslin was catching his breath. Peoples bent down to tie his shoe. Then Crosslin hushed him: "I heard a noise," he whispered. Crosslin called Rohm on the radio to tell him they were almost back, saying, "incoming." As he crept across the clearing, Peoples followed, looking down. He again tried to walk in Crosslin's footprints and clutched the Bunn coffeepot fiercely. Crosslin looked into a garbage can, then stepped slowly around the rocks of a fire pit. Suddenly he tensed and stared intently at the dense underbrush.
In the next instant, Peoples heard shots and shouting. FBI snipers Richard Salomon and Michael Heffron popped up and shot simultaneously, Salomon hitting Crosslin above the right eye with a .308 that blew thorough the back of his skull, killing him instantly. He nearly fell on Peoples, and his brain landed two feet away from his shattered head. Skull fragments raked People's face, and he went down on hands and knees, shuddering and screaming, "I'm hit!" The agents moved in quickly and place him under arrest. The last thing he saw as he was carted off was his plaid shirt lying in the woods, paces away from Crosslin's lifeless body. Crosslin never fired his gun.
Rohm waited in the house alone.
Rohm's son saw the news on his foster parents' TV. He knew that Crosslin had been killed, and jumped to the phone and called Tammy Brand, the mother of his best friend Dairik, yelling, "Don't let them kill my dad!"
"We had high hopes that Rohm was going to walk out of there," says Lieutenant Mike Risko of the Michigan state police, "because he was talking to us adamantly and strongly."
Robert agreed to write his father a letter. "Hey, Dad," it read. "Please come out so no one gets hurt."
What happened on that Tuesday morning doesn't make much sense. It might have been a tragic miscommunication or the final statement from a men who felt he had nothing left to lose. State troopers in an LAV tossed Rohm a phone during the night, and Rohm agreed to surrender at seven o'clock Tuesday morning if he saw his boy. "We agreed to bring Robert out there," says Risko. But just after six A.M., an upper room in the house caught fire, and Rohm emerged, carrying his Ruger.
According to the state police, troopers stormed up in the LAV and told Rohm over a bullhorn to drop the gun. He seemed frightened and confused. Suddenly he turned back into the house. ("Possibly for the dog," Risko says.) He re-emerged on the run and took cover under a small pine tree 10 yards from the house. The LAV moved forward. "At that point he shouldered the rifle," Risko says, "and he was taken out by a sniper." One bullet went through the butt of his rifle and his chest. Like Crosslin, he never fired a shot.
Robert was halfway down the road at the time. He saw the smoke and heard the gunfire, which he believed was ammo ignited by the fire. Then he was ushered back to the car. By the time he got home, a detail of caseworkers, counselors and FIA officials - his new family - was already on its way to give him the news. That night a harvest moon rose over the destruction at Rainbow Farm, and then it rained.
During the standoff, a small crowd had gathered at a makeshift protest camp along M-60. A typical sign read OUR GOVERNMENT IS KILLING AMERICANS.
"This was a Waco-like event," says Rick Martinez, Michigan editor for the South Bend Tribune. "You have individual rights, but then there's the specter of illegal drug sales. They're parallel events, but it's apples to oranges to grapes."
"You could see this whole thing as Scott's fault," says Lorraine Jaffee, an outspoken foster-parent advocate from Edwardsburg who has had run-ins with Teter. "If he hadn't taken Robert Rohm, none of this would have happened."
The official version of events - that Crosslin and Rohm both raised their rifles - was soon disputed. Within days, investigations were launched by the families, the prosecutor, the state's attorney general, the state police, the FBI, even the Michigan Militia. The lawyer handling a wrongful-death civil suit for Rohm's estate says the state police account of Rohm's death is seriously flawed. "Our forensic experts are the guys retained by the defense team at Ruby Ridge," says attorney Christopher Keane. "Among other problems, there's no way Rohm could have been facing the LAV in a ready-to-shoot position at the time he was shot. The police case is forensically baseless. Usually, the cover-up is worse than the crime. Here, it is just as bad."
The case is still pending
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