Freemen: Low on Food, May Be Persuaded to Surrender, Gritz Says
JORDAN, Mont. (AP) _ The anti-government Freemen appear to be running low on food and may be persuaded to surrender peacefully, said a former Green Beret colonel who met with them for more than seven hours Saturday.
Also Saturday, Stewart Douglas Waterhouse, 37, left the Freemen’s compound at 1:15 p.m. and surrendered to the FBI. He was being held in the Yellowstone County Jail, federal authorities said.
He was charged with being an accessory after the fact for entering the compound and joining the standoff after it began March 25, U.S. Attorney Sherry Scheel Matteucci said. He was expected to appear before a judge Monday.
Waterhouse has also been charged with felony intimidation in Oklahoma, she said. Further information was not available.
It is the first surrender since Ebert W. Stanton, 23, and his mother, Agnes B. Stanton, 52, left the compound April 11.
Meanwhile, James ``Bo″ Gritz also said all of the adult men he saw on the compound wore pistols and there were numerous rifles in their farmhouse.
Two young girls in the ranch house were as ``thin as rails,″ but otherwise appeared to be healthy, Gritz said at a news conference.
``Jiminy, if I could just have a Taco Bell,″ he said one of the girls told him.
``We were there a long time, and all I asked for is a glass of water,″ Gritz said. ``I sensed that they are rationing out.″
Gritz, who helped end the 1992 bloody standoff between the FBI and a white separatist in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, gave the first public report of life on the compound where more than a dozen people have been holed up in a 34-day standoff with the FBI.
Gritz said he will return Sunday morning for more talks and will insist that the FBI allow Randy Weaver to accompany him. Gritz helped end the Idaho standoff by persuading Weaver to surrender.
Weaver accompanied Gritz to Montana on Thursday but said the FBI would not let him go to the Freemen’s ranch.
Gritz said he saw 16 people in the main house on the Freemen’s ranch, but was told there were 22 people on the property.
``I think their hope is that they (the FBI) will just go away _ and I don’t think that will happen,″ he said.
Gritz said the Freemen seem especially interested in having lawyer Gerry Spence defend them if they come out. Spence was Weaver’s lawyer.
Gritz has publicly urged the Freemen to surrender and face trial in federal court.
``This is good,″ Weaver said earlier of the long wait for Gritz to emerge from the compound. ``I figure the longer he stays in there, the better the chances are.″
Since his arrival, Gritz has met with FBI officials each day to discuss his undisclosed plans to end the standoff in which an estimated 18 Freemen are encircled on the 960-acre ranch.
After a nearly two-hour meeting Saturday morning, a car carrying Gritz and Jack McLamb, a retired Phoenix police officer, was escorted to the ranch by a state Highway Patrol car carrying an FBI agent. Gritz and McLamb got out and walked until the Freemen sent a car that took them to the main house on the ranch, which they entered.
FBI agents have surrounded the Freemen complex since March 25, when they arrested two leaders of the anti-government group in a sting operation. Some of the Freemen are wanted on federal and state charges ranging from writing millions of dollars in worthless checks to threatening to murder a federal judge.
The only outside negotiators allowed to talk to the Freemen before Gritz and McLamb were state officials, including four legislators, who have met with them several times. Relatives of the Freemen have also been allowed to visit.
The Freemen contend they are not subject to federal or state laws, but are sovereign citizens of their own country and are governed only by common law. Like Weaver, whose wife and son and a U.S. marshal were shot to death in the 1992 confrontation, the Freemen ascribe to the Old Testament-based, white supremacist Christian Identity movement.
Gritz, 57, became a hero in right-wing circles when he staged several unsuccessful commando-style forays in Southeast Asia in the 1980s to search for POWs. His activities were curbed after U.S. authorities charged him with using a passport under a false name.
Based in Nevada, he later became a lecturer on emergency preparedness, self-sufficient living and homeopathic remedies. As a Populist Party presidential candidate in 1992, his slogan was ``God, guns and Gritz.″
Gritz’s main project these days is developing property he calls Almost Heaven near Kamiah, Idaho, where he wants to bring in about 200 families to live in what he calls a ``constitutional covenant community.″
Weaver, 48, of Grand Junction, Iowa, was acquitted in 1993 in the marshal’s death at Ruby Ridge. But he received an 18-month prison sentence for failure to appear at a trial on federal charges of selling a sawed-off shotgun to a federal agent. He was released with no probation.