Schmoozing, McLamb style!
Source: State Journal-Register (http://www.sj-r.com)
McLamb: Police OK
Anti-government activist defends police at rally
By JOE MAHR
TAYLORVILLE - A national anti-government activist sided with
Illinois State Police Tuesday in the Roby standoff - which was
unwelcome news at a rally planned to show support for Shirley Allen.
Also Tuesday, state police for the first time released a brief
excerpt of a 23-page letter Allen reportedly wrote to relatives in
the months before the standoff began. Allen, 51, has been holed up
inside her rural home near Roby, in western Christian County, since
Sept. 22, resisting a court order that she undergo a psychiatric
Arizona activist Jack McLamb - who previously helped negotiate
conclusions to standoffs in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and at the
Freemen compound near Jordan, Mont., in 1996 - cited the letter in
part to tell a disbelieving crowd in Taylorville that he agrees
with state police: Allen is mentally ill.
"I read the words. Shirley is having some very difficult mental
problems right now," said McLamb, who spoke Tuesday both at the
noon rally in Taylorville and at a later rally at the Statehouse in
Springfield. The Taylorville event was attended by about 200 people
- including curious bystanders as well as Allen supporters - while
about 50 people participated in the Springfield rally.
The gatherings were the culmination of mounting publicity about the
Roby standoff. The case was the subject of stories in the Washington
Post and on the NBC Nightly News Tuesday, and talk-radio hosts
across the United States have seized on the confrontation as a hot
new topic. A State Journal-Register editor even received a phone
call about the case from a talk show producer in Sydney, Australia,
Allen supporters portray her as a constitutional heroine, someone
who is simply standing up for her right to be left alone. But that
portrayal suffered a setback Tuesday from McLamb, a former police
officer turned anti-government activist whom many Allen supporters
probably expected to object to police tactics during the siege.
Instead, to jeers and heckles, McLamb told the Taylorville crowd he
might have shot Allen himself at two points during the standoff.
The first time, two days into the siege, a negotiator checking on
Allen's safety was about to peer inside her house when Allen fired
her shotgun out the window, according to police. The second time, on
the fifth day of the siege, Allen raised her shotgun toward a
negotiator, prompting two troopers to fire nonlethal "beanbag"
bullets at her. She then allegedly shot at the troopers.
"I probably would have given the order to shoot Shirley if I was in
command," McLamb said, citing standard police rules of engagement.
"I'm telling you, they have an exceptional group of guys that would
use beanbags on a lady with a gun."
But Allen supporters in the crowd were not convinced.
"I think he's trying to schmooze the crowd," said Bill Babich, a
Taylorville resident who has organized a petition against police
Added a frustrated Scott Slinkard of the Southern Illinois Patriots
League: "She is being denied her due-process rights, and he
(McLamb) knows that. And that doesn't seem to bother him."
State Police Director Terrance Gainer took the news differently.
"It always feel good to be somewhat vindicated in our approach,"
Gainer said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in
Gainer's statement followed a second meeting between Gainer's top
lieutenants, McLamb and another right-wing activist, J.J. Johnson
of Las Vegas.
During those meetings, police laid out their plans and fears,
according to McLamb and Johnson. The pair said they agreed not to
disclose some information.
Gainer earlier denied that he had told the activists more than he
had disclosed to reporters previously. But McLamb Tuesday evening
offered never-released details about the standoff and about Allen
that he learned from state police. Among them were:
o That police have contacted past co-workers of Allen to inquire
into previous mental ailments. According to McLamb, detectives
discovered that, when Allen left a job as a registered nurse,
co-workers "knew she was having problems then."
o That police have combed through six months of Allen's phone
records in the hope of finding somebody who could help them with
o That police have been using mirrors to monitor Allen. "They can
sneak up to a room and see if she moves," McLamb said.
o And that police have seen Allen's bedroom windows fog up at night,
leading them to believe she has some kind of heating device.
State police spokesman Mark McDonald said he didn't know if the
first two items were true. He said he couldn't comment on the last
McLamb was apparently the first outsider to be shown the 23-page
letter by state police. After McLamb talked about it Tuesday
morning, an excerpt was released to the media Tuesday afternoon.
Gainer previously said the letter contained confidential
information about Allen's mental state. He said he showed only a
page to McLamb to buttress police statements. McLamb said he'd read
"a few of the pages."
At the Statehouse rally, McLamb and Johnson repeated their belief
that state police are doing everything they can.
At most, they said, Christian County sheriff's deputies erred by
hurling tear gas into Allen's home the first day of the crisis.
That, they said, might have confirmed the fears of an already
paranoid woman. (Christian County Sheriff Dick Mahan has defended
the gassing as a split-second decision made when a deputy feared
Allen would shoot.)
McLamb said he has independently verified many of the things state
police told him. Johnson, a former member of the Ohio militia, said
he too believes police are being up-front.
"We will use the the famous prose of our ex-president (Ronald
Reagan): Trust but verify," Johnson said.
The real problem, according to McLamb and Johnson, is that Illinois
law makes it too easy to force someone to undergo a psychiatric
Allen's family, in part citing the letter, convinced Christian
County Judge David Slater to issue a court order for an emergency
Critics of the law argue that, in effect, it requires someone
suspected of mental illness to prove themselves sane. They say the
burden of proof should be reversed. Also, they say, the law should
provide that a person suspected of mental illness be given notice
of any hearings before being ordered to undergo an evaluation.
McLamb told the Taylorville crowd that about 750 people in Illinois
underwent court-ordered evaluations last year.
"Some of them might have benefited," McLamb said. "But, probably,
out of the 750, there were some people that suffered what can be
seen as Draconion."
Protesters applauded McLamb for that remark, but most of the time
he was met with blank stares and a sprinkling of boos.
"There's so much distrust today, and I must say it's earned
distrust, of the police," he told reporters after being heckled
off the curb where he'd been speaking.
At Mahan's request, deputies from the Sangamon County sheriff's
office's tactical team helped with crowd control at the Taylorville
rally. Of the 15 deputies, one was posted on top of a building and
another was posted inside a tower, according to Sangamon County
Sheriff Neil Williamson.
"They had binoculars, but there were no snipers," Williamson said.