The Cape Kiwanda Standoff was an act of domestic terrorism that occurred from March 12th, 1996, to April 3rd, 1996. The conflict began when local militia members aligned with the 3 Percenters Movement seized the Oregon State Building in the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. Around 300 militia members were involved in the seizure of the property from the state authorities.
The group of "rebels" was led by George Wallace, an Oregon local who was known for his anti-government rhetoric. Fueled by acts of "government injustice" like the Ruby Ridge standoff and the Waco Siege, Wallace rounded up a large group of people from the West Coast that shared his views. Wallace planned to seize the building to get the government to back off from what he believed was "the people's land."
George Wallace and his self-proclaimed "people's army" marched onto the state park on March 12th, 1996. Minutes after walking onto the property, the group surrounded the federal building. The building was not that impressive, only two floors and barely over 3,500 square feet. However, Wallace did not care about the size of the building, he cared about the symbology of the effort.
The militia came into contact with five Park Rangers in the building. Brandishing their Assault Rifles, the group told the rangers to disperse from the park or "be forced out of the park." After these remarks, three of the rangers left the area. Two refused to leave, and were beaten by the militia. After sustaining heavy punches and kicks, one of the men was thrown out of the building. The other, Peter Larks, got up and ran to the back of the building. Wallace and his entourage followed, where they met a locked door with Larks on the other side. Wallace ordered his members to kick the door down, and they complied. Around a minute and a half later, the door was down. Larks revealed his 9mm pistol, and aimed at Wallace. One of Wallace's closest friends, Sergio Barker, took out his shotgun and hit Larks point-blank. The ranger flew back and hit the floor. Barker and a couple members grabbed Larks and brought him outside to receive medical help. Wallace phoned the ambulance and the police, and the siege began.
Twenty minutes after the shooting, first responders began to arrive. Larks was taken to an ambulance and brought to a hospital in Portland, Oregon. He suffered serious trauma, but checked out of the hospital three months later in stable condition. Since he left the hospital, Larks has kept his job as Park Ranger at Kiwanda and has become a vocal preacher for non-violence.
State Troopers and local police swarmed the scene soon after. Tillamook County Police Chief David Demoyne picked up a megaphone and told the militia members to "come out with their hands up." Two hours passed, and nobody had left the building. The police were not allowed to engage the rebels unless provoked, so they watched as members began piling out of the house and building a camp site around the property. They stood only 600 feet away from the group, and were infuriated that they could not do anything about it.
"These bastards began setting up their living space as if they would be there forever. They spat in our faces and stomped around screaming anti-police and anti-government propaganda. I just knew something was going to go wrong soon." -Deputy Aaron Sweeney, recalling the incident in 2005.
As the event in Oregon began to pick up media attention, the Governor knew he would have to comment on it at some point. Governor John Kitzhaber spoke to Fox News and several local news organizations, saying the following:
"The event on Cape Kiwanda is extremely disheartening. These rebels have no right to occupy state land, and we are actively trying to end this conflict peacefully. Our hearts go out to the Larks Family, who are undergoing extreme emotional pain. I am calling for the immediate deployment of 300 Oregon National Guard to the Park immediately following this message, and once again hope that this conflict may end without violence. May God Bless America." -Governor John Kitzhaber, March 14th, 1996.
Soon after Kitzhaber's address to the media, George Wallace began speaking to national television as well. In an interview with CBS, Wallace said that the government should "Get the hell out of here" or face "imminent annihilation."
On March 17th, 1996, a group of rebels boarded a convoy to go to Pacific City to gather supplies. On their journey they were confronted by State Police, who told the members to exit the car with their hands up. Everyone inside knew they were going to get arrested, so they grabbed their weapons stored below their seats. As soon as the car doors flew open, bullets flew everywhere. One officer was shot three times in the stomach, flying back against the police vehicle. The three other troopers on sight were hit as well, falling to the ground. The rebels immediately piled back into the car and drove back to camp as fast as they could. Three officers lay dead at the scene, except for Trooper James Delaney, who picked up his walkie-talkie and radioed the following words:
"Multiple officers down, I am hit as well. Shots fired! Shots fired! I need immediate backup! It's the fuckin' three percenters, I know it!" -James Delaney's last words, March 17th, 1996.
Soon after these words left Delaney's mouth, he died of heavy bleeding. Reinforcements arrived at the scene to see cars riddled with bullets State Troopers sprawled all over the road. Soon later, Cops at the Park demanded for the six Militia Members involved in the shooting to leave the property and to turn themselves in immediately. All six of the rebels refused, and stayed inside the house. Wallace soon emerged from the property to speak to the police.
"These guys did what they had to do in the name of Government tyranny. You guys need to leave now or there will be a lot more of you guys lying on the ground!"
Chief Demoyne threatened to arrest Wallace but eventually backed off.
On March 23rd, 1996, Oregon National Guard planned to raid the property by nightfall. They planned for three dozen operatives to raid the compound to end the conflict as quick as possible. They planned to get George Wallace dead or alive, and to apprehend all militia members for occupying state land.
When night came upon the Park, the National Guard raided the area, capturing dozens of militia members. Then the scene turned violent. People involved with the convoy shooting near Pacific City attacked the National Guard through the roof, sniping several soldiers. Wallace was dressed in full body armor and carried an assault rifle. He was spotted several times circling the compound with his inner circle. Twenty minutes into the attack and seven people lay dead on both sides. Four soldiers were killed patrolling the property and three three percenters, including one person who was involved with the convoy shooting, lay dead as well. Wallace seemed unusually joyous, shouting:
"My men have died in the name of liberty! Your's died in vain!"
Chief Demoyne was hit by a shotgun shell and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He died three days later from his injuries.
Since the taking of the Park, the death toll had risen to 12, and 4 people were injured.
Although the raid turned heavily violent and failed miserably, 45 militia members were arrested.
Governor Kitzhaber called for a day of mourning. He knew the only way the state could take back their land was through violent intervention. He called for the US military to immediately intervene to prevent further loss of life. Bill Clinton agreed to using the armed forces to liberate the park, seeing how non-violent methods have only increased tensions between the two groups.
250 U.S Military Personnel began lining the property. They planned to use tear gas to flush the group out. The commander of the operation, Brigadier General Robert Gurtswell, was confident that the operation would succeed with minimal casualties. Everyone that would leave the building would be arrested for their involvement in the siege and the day would be over. However, Gurtswell told his men to shoot if they were provoked by any of the militia members. George Wallace knew of their plan to empty the building and they build homemade gas masks with eyewear to protect themselves from the gas. They would use the gas to their advantage to escape outside unseen and ambush their attackers.
The morning of the operation, on March 26th, 1995, the first tear gas canisters were launched inside of the building. Some who were not lucky enough to make a mask emptied the building and were arrested almost immediately. News sources initially reported another 55 members were arrested running from the property. Confused about where the remaining 120 or so insurgents were, Gurtswell ordered his platoon of 25 soldiers to raid the building and get everyone out.
Meanwhile, Wallace was ordering his men to hide and prepare to ambush Gurtswell's men. The once charismatic leader of the militia was deteriorating and growing stressed. He knew his day would come soon, and tried everything he could do to stop it from happening. The troops came in through the front door, and were immediately met by gunfire from behind the greeting table. Three soldiers fell, wounded from the bullets. One militia man was shot in the stomach by a member of Gurtswell's platoon. He later succumbed to his injuries at the scene. Most of the militia members were hiding on the room with the stage. They took cover behind the curtains, and behind chairs. Sadly, they were unprepared as the U.S soldiers went in through the back of the building and could openly see dozens of men draped behind the curtains.
"Hands up! This is the United States Army and you all are under arrest!" One man shouted at the crowd. Several militia members turned around and aimed their firearms at the troops. They were all shot before they could take proper aim. Dozens of men were arrested in the auditorium.
Wallace somewhat planned for this attack. When the 3 percenters first seized the property, they planted remote charges all over the property, and could be detonated from a console that only Wallace owned. He knew today was the day he had to use it. He ordered his men to seal the door and wall between the main room and the auditorium with blast-proof polymers and to board up the area. Minutes later, Wallace placed the console onto a desk in his "office."
"I never thought I would have to use this. Damn." Wallace began to pray with the rest of his entourage, hoping that his comrades stuck on the other side would survive the blast. Deep inside Wallace knew it was the only way to shake the military off him temporarily. He grabbed the lever, and quickly pushed it forward.
Half of the building was gone in an instant, many news helicopters caught it on camera. The explosion was larger than expected, giving the blast set some fuel tanks in the auditorium ablaze. Gurtswell's heart sank, he did not think this would ever happen. The rest of his platoon was taken off the earth. Although almost no bodies were recovered from the wreckage, sources say up to 87 people were killed in the blast. Gurtswell immediately ordered evacuation from the site, he knew that it would take an airstrike to drive them out. Non-violent measures would no longer work in this setting. These "men" were savages, and would stop at nothing to take this building over.
Around two hours from the blast, law enforcement and the U.S military left the scene. Wallace and his remaining 40-50 of his men were alone at the wrecked building. They managed to put out the fire and many seemed like nothing happened over the last couple hours. Wallace was held up in his office, extremely paranoid. He knew an airstrike would be next, and he thought the only way to stop it was by getting rid of the "spies" in the building. Before this, he broadcast a message over the radio, saying:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Evening. I am George Wallace, an Oregon local and leader of the 3 percenter movement at Cape Kiwanda. Two weeks ago, my militia seized the Cape Kiwanda Federal Building. This was a message in the government to back off from Oregon. They refused to listen, and they attempted to steal it back from the people. They failed, but they were too stubborn to figure that out. When they tried again with their military, they were driven away again. I am afraid they have not learned and that they will be back again. Come to Cape Kiwanda and assist in our effort to rid the government from Oregon. Hurry, there is not much time." -Radio Broadcast given by George Wallace, March 27th, 1995.
On March 28th, 1995, Wallace rounded up half a dozen of what he called "traitors to the rebellion," and ordered them to be executed by firing squad. He lined them up outside in front of the rest of the militia. Wallace had gone crazy, and ordered his men to shoot the "spies." They did as they were told, and his own men were killed. His right-hand man, Sergio Barker, knew something had gone wrong inside of Wallace's head. These men had done nothing wrong. Wallace felt like he needed to have complete authority over everyone on the property. Barker knew George would be coming for him next.
Barker and three others planned to assassinate Wallace in his office on March 30th, 1995. Wallace had executed four others in the day that had passed, and Wallace was so paranoid that he locked himself in his office. Barker and his group broke the door down with a ram and confronted the twisted leader of the militia.
Barker told Wallace that he had turned into a maniac and that he had to go. Wallace knew this day would come, but not this early. He thought that he would be killed by the military, not his own militia. Wallace grew furious towards Barker, one of his best friends. Barker revealed his pistol and shot Wallace in the face. He fell back in his chair and rolled to the ground. Barker immediately got on the radio and reported his death to the people.
"George Wallace, leader of the 3 percenters, was killed tonight by his own wrong-doing. He had deteriorated over the past couple days and had resorted to killing his own men for sport. It had to be done. I, Sergio Barker, have assumed the position of leader of the 3 percenters and will lead this occupation. Thank You, and may God Bless America." -Sergio Barker, March 30th, 1995.
Only Barker and fifteen others remained. They were low on food, and knew they would have to surrender sometime in the next couple days. Their great occupation with 300 men had dwindled down to just over a dozen. Around 120 militia members have been arrested and around 150 had been killed or wounded. Barker began packing his bags and prepared to drive as far as he could away from Oregon, start a new life for himself.
At Kingsley Air Force Base in Oregon, General Gurtswell was planning an airstrike to occur on April 3rd, 1995. This was their last option. It was guaranteed to work and would finally end the occupation. Gurtswell commisioned one F-15 fighter jet to do the dirty work, and it would depart on the morning of April 3rd.