by Carl Swensson, ©2014
(Jan. 24, 2014) — [Editor’s Note: The following is a continuing of Part 1 in the series found here.]
“The sequence of events thus far was hard enough to fathom but the ones that followed proved to be even more bizarre.”
Before moving forward I must now take a step back to the evening of April 19, 2010. That evening Darren was paid a visit by the FBI. They asked if he was going to Tennessee the next day and began talking about his gun collection. Having nothing to fear, since all were registered, he also showed them his concealed-carry permit which, by the way, Tennessee acknowledges as valid. There was never any threat issued by the agents but Darren was left with an uneasy feeling, wondering what prompted the visit in the first place.
Now we move forward to the conclusion of the caravan of lights that stopped Darren. Just before he got in his truck, you’ll remember I told you he placed something in the tool chest in the back of the truck. I later came to find out that that “something” was his handgun which had been returned to him. When it was returned, the police officer made a comment to Darren that when he got into Madisonville, they would appreciate it if he would remove the gun from its holster and place it in the tool box. Darren then asked if the officers would be heading to town as well, and when they answered in the affirmative, he responded by saying, “Then there’s no need for this and I’ll put it up right now.”
That one act of putting that gun in the tool box may have saved many lives that day. Upon his arrival, Darren was met with an overwhelming presence of law enforcement agents, with some ready to fire from sniper positions, who would undoubtedly have opened fire on him had he unholstered the gun in town. With others in close proximity, multiple casualties could have been expected. This begs the question, “Were the directions given by the officer who returned the gun meant to signal a fire fight? Divine providence can be the only answer as to why that did not happen.
Because we were not allowed into the courthouse to observe the hearing for CDR Fitzpatrick, after congregating at a local restaurant for a couple of hours, everyone left and headed home. I initiated a call for a meeting with Darren, Bill Looman, Jim Renn and me, which we had the next day. All of us knew that the crimes of that court and its duty-bound members must get into the hands of the sheriffs in neighboring counties, which meant one of us would have to do it. Darren, being out of work, volunteered, so we pooled resources and gave him enough for several days in Tennessee to get the documents into as many sheriffs’ hands as he could. It was on his second day, Friday, after delivering the documents to the McMinn County Sheriff, that he proceeded north to the Knoxville County Sheriff.
I can’t remember if it was before or after that visit that Darren found himself, once again, in the middle of a blinking light show. This time it was on the expressway in the middle of downtown Knoxville, and they shut down the entire expressway to make the stop. Darren wasn’t in his decorated truck this time, having left it for his wife to use. This time he was in the truck he used when meeting up with fellow militia members. It was camouflage-painted, but this time, he had left all of his guns at home, except for a fold-up stock gun pushed to the rear of one of his locked cabinets on the side of the truck bed. He explained later that he wasn’t even aware of its presence. That and a ghillie suit (snipers use these for camouflage) that always remained in the truck was what the now-identified FBI officers took, along with his truck, as they took Darren directly to jail. Jim, Bill and I were made aware of this by way of a phone call from Darren’s wife.
The three of us determined that we must travel to Knoxville to arrange bail and get Darren home. It was later determined that his wife would be going, so the three of us waited, in stunned disbelief, for further instructions. We got the call that he was released and was traveling home after getting the truck out of impound. The gun and Ghillie suit were not returned. Conversations with Darren revealed the charges against him were traveling across state lines with weapons for the purpose of taking over a courthouse. This was done under commercial law and none of us had a clue where that law came from or how it applied to Darren. As it turned out, the crime he was arrested for related to events that occurred on the 1st and the 20th, ten days before the stop in Knoxville. Obvious to all was the ridiculous nature of the charge since no such attempt on the Madisonville courthouse was ever made. Added to that were the identical charges (minus the fabricated “resisting arrest” charge) leveled against CDR Fitzpatrick from Madisonville.
It was several days before Darren’s eventual release. Those of us who knew the situation remained flabbergasted by the whole sequence of events. Not only was Walt now awaiting trial at the Monroe County courthouse, but so was Darren. The internet was abuzz with news concerning both cases, and that’s the way things remained until the trial date was set. An arraignment date of June 28, 2010 was set, with dual hearings held on December 1, 2010.
Events surrounding those trials will be the subject of the next installment in this ongoing saga.