Armed Standoff Ends at Farm Where Sheriff Was to Serve Eviction
COCHRAN, Ga. (AP) _ Armed men who blocked a sheriff from serving an eviction notice to a farmer ended their standoff Friday night when authorities agreed to pospone foreclosure proceedings.
Since Thursday, the gunmen had occupied the 80-acre farm that had been in the family of Oscar Lorick since the Civil War, and vowed to use force to prevent Sheriff Edward Coley from serving the eviction notice.
″We don’t want a physical confrontation,″ said Alvin McDougald, an NAACP attorney representing Lorick, who is black. ″We want the government to rectify some of the problems.″
The bank and Coley agreed to postpone the foreclosure to give Lorick, 66, and his wife, Virginia, more time to arrange new financing to save the farm, which has been in their family for 119 years.
Lorick’s plight drew offers of assistance from as far away as California and New Jersey.
Tommy Kersey, a farmer who has been active this year in trying to block farm foreclosures in Georgia, said he was satisfied with the agreement and would ask Lorick’s armed supporters to return to their homes.
″If Oscar’s satisfied with what’s happened here, we’re going to get our troops out,″ Kersey said.
The sheriff, who appeared with McDougald, Kersey and Lorick at a news conference on steps of Bleckley County courthouse, said Lorick’s supporters had agreed to put up their firearms and take them out of the county.
″The guns have upset a lot of you and our principal effort has been to remove these weapons so that no one is injured,″ Coley told those who gathered at courthouse shortly after dark.
Earlier in the day, an unarmed Coley met with Lorick and his supporters at the farm, explaining he had a duty to carry out the court-ordered eviction.
James Lingo, district coordinator of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had said his group would seek a temporary restraining order from a judge in Macon, but the agreement announced Friday night apparently postponed the action.
Lorick’s home had been guarded since Thursday by armed supporters who camped in the farmer’s yard and marked off a defensive perimeter with hay bales and string.
They draped huge banners saying ″Lorick Stays, Banks Go,″ on sheds and the front of his brick home and draped a large American flag over the entrance to his garage. A sign painted on the tin roof of a barn across the road from his home condemned the federal reserve bank system.
By early afternoon when Coley arrived, the group had grown to about 30, some wearing camouflage uniforms and most of them armed with handguns, shotguns and rifles.
According to Coley, Lorick owes the Cook Banking Co. $96,000 on his 80-acre farm. The Cochran bank forclosed on his farm in March and two previous court efforts to block the eviction failed, the sheriff said. The farmer’s equipment was auctioned off in 1984.
Lorick, a rotund man wearing a stained tan shirt and bib overalls, blamed his financial problems on a few bad crops and said he was victimized by people who took advantage of his inability to read and write.
″If fighting would help save it, I would be willing to fight,″ he said. ″I am too old to do anything else. I’ve spent my whole life farming right here.″