FBI Agent Tells Of Mathews' Last Stand
Nov. 22, 1985
SEATTLE (AP) _ Order founder Robert Mathews stood off an FBI assault team, shooting at officers through the second-story floor of his island hideout, and kept firing while the house burned to the ground, an FBI agent testified.
James Jay, head of the FBI's Seattle SWAT team, testified Thursday in the trial on racketeering charges of 10 alleged members of the Nazi-like group Mathews founded and led until his death.
Jay described Mathews' final, violent hours on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound on Dec. 8 as agent tried to capture him.
The defendants and 13 others are accused of running a 11/2 -year crime campaign that included two murders, more than $4 million in robberies, counterfeiting and arson. Prosecutors allege the goal was to establish an Aryan homeland without Jews, racial minorities and ''white traitors.''
FBI agents surrounded the waterfront home early Dec. 7, Jay said. The next afternoon, after hours of negotiations had produced no results, authorities fired tear gas into the house, and Jay said he and four other agents entered the ground floor of the two-story structure.
Once inside, Jay said, ''we received automatic weapons fire from upstairs, coming through the ceiling ... then (it would) zigzag across the floor and through the walls.''
Mathews, on the second floor, fired 20 to 30 shots within a foot of agents below, and Jay said he directed agents to fire short bursts through the ceiling to get Mathews to move away.
When agents tried to open the door to the stairs, Mathews fired another six or seven shots, and the agents fled the house, Jay said.
Later, a helicopter turned a floodlight on the house and illumination flares were fired inside, which set the house on fire. Still, Mathews went to an upstairs window and began firing at the helicopter, Jay said.
Mathews kept firing until ammunition began exploding inside the structure, Jay said.
The house burned to its foundation. Mathews' remains later were found inside along with two gas masks, rifle barrels and automatic pistols, Jay said.
Defense attorneys questioned whether agents planned to ignite the house, given the type of flares fired.
''I was told they were going to fire illumination flares hoping to have him leave the building,'' Jay said, adding that agents wanted to capture Mathews alive.
FBI agents also testified about arresting defendants Bruce Pierce and David Lane, considered leaders of The Order after Mathews' death.
Pierce was arrested without incident March 26 in Rossville, Ga., as he stopped at a commercial mail drop. Agents seized a number of weapons, cash and other items from the van he was driving.
Agents also found articles about television producer Norman Lear; Morris Dees, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama; Thomas Wyman, the president of CBS; and a list of offices of the anti-defamation league of B'nai B'rith.
Previous testimony has indicated Lear, Dees, Wyman and prominent Jews and communications executives were targeted by Order members for assassination.
Pierce's wife, Julie, was stopped the next day driving a camper pulling a trailer in Jasper, Ala. Among items in the trailer were nine weapons, and books, including ''Assassination: Theory and Practice,'' ''Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors'' and Volumes 1-5 of ''How to Kill.''
Lane was arrested March 30 in Winston-Salem, N.C., also without incident.