December 3, 2003 - South Bend Tribune (IN)
Family Files Lawsuit in Rainbow Death
Rohm's Shooting Called 'Hate Crime'
By Adam Jackson, Tribune Staff Writer
Authorities say 28-year-old Rolland Rohm signed his own death warrant when he pointed a gun at an armored vehicle full of police officers. Rohm's family says the authorities are blatantly lying.
And this week, the family of the slain pro-marijuana activist filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit alleging that Rohm, known as Rollie to his friends, was wrongfully killed during a police standoff at the Rainbow Farm Campground during Labor Day weekend 2001 -- and that investigators conspired to cover it up.
"This was murder, pure and simple," Rohm's stepfather, John Livermore, said. "It was a hate crime."
Rohm's death came at the end of a five-day police standoff at the campground, which kicked off when Rohm and his partner, 46-year-old Grover "Tom" Crosslin, barricaded themselves in a farmhouse on the campground property after torching several buildings on the property.
The men were reportedly upset about court proceedings in which Crosslin was facing possible prison time and Rohm had had his son, Robert, 12, removed from his home and placed in state foster care.
While police received tips from neighbors that the men were armed, a crew from WNDU-TV, Channel 16, South Bend, covering the fires in a helicopter, were reportedly fired upon from the ground. Because firing at an aircraft is a federal offense, FBI teams were soon on scene, along with the local and state police agencies responding.
Those FBI agents proved to be Crosslin's undoing on Sept. 3, 2001, when he and a friend, Brandon Peoples, encountered FBI sharpshooters in the woods near the home. Police reports indicate that Crosslin raised his Ruger Mini-14 rifle in the direction of one of the snipers, causing others in the area to shoot him immediately.
But Rohm was still alive in the barricaded farmhouse. After friends and family members pleaded with him to turn himself in all through the night, he finally agreed, but said he needed some sleep before doing so.
Rohm, however, never turned himself in. When flames erupted from the farmhouse early on the morning of Sept. 4, police moved in to prevent his escape, with one team using a tanklike Light Armored Vehicle to move around one side of the house.
And it was at that vehicle that authorities say Rohm aimed his rifle while he knelt next to a small pine tree, causing the Michigan State Police sharpshooters to kill him.
Not so, Livermore said.
"Neither of the autopsies agree with what is in the reports," he said. "There is no way he was pointing a gun at them."
The lawsuit, in which Rohm's estate is listed as plaintiff, names as defendants Daniel Lubelan, John Julin, Jerry Ellsworth, Steve Homrich, David Bower, Joseph Zangaro, Joe Jones and Dave Rampy.
While police reports list Lubelan and Julin as the triggermen, all eight men were members of a Michigan State Police team who were maintaining a perimeter around the farmhouse at the time of the killing.
A spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police said the agency maintains a policy of not commenting on matters involving pending litigation.
Scott Teter, then the Cass County prosecutor, did not file charges in the deaths. He said his investigation showed conclusively that the deaths of both men were justifiable homicides under Michigan law.
Dearborn, Mich., attorney Christopher Keane, who is representing the Livermore family, said they have been gathering information in preparation for the lawsuit for more than a year.
"We have a very strong case," Keane said. "The only justification for a shooting like this is if someone is in imminent danger."
"No one was in imminent danger" from Rohm, he said.
Should the Livermores win the civil case, they could receive monetary compensation, in which case John Livermore said the vast majority would go to Robert Rohm, who has lived with other relatives since the loss of his father.
But Livermore said he and his family are looking for something besides money in the case: They want answers. Answers about inconsistencies they believe are in the published police reports about the killing. Answers about disturbing discoveries they say they have made, such as the slain man's testicles disappearing some time during the police investigations.
And answers about why Rohm was killed in the first place, if, as they believe, he was not threatening the police in any way.
"We want the truth, and we want what is right for (Robert)," Livermore said. "There are a lot of things about this that don't add up."
No court dates have been set for the case.
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