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Hostage on the Fuel Tank

Wacco was the sixth shooting incident of my FBI career. My very first two weeks out of training there was a kidnapping at Portland International Airport. Abernathy had kidnapped his supervisor and demanded to see his estranged wife and two kids flown in to him from Spokane. As low man, I took the radio out to the airport and worked up background on him. Like me, he was a veteran who had just returned. He was undergoing medical assistance.

His psychiatrist who joined team at airport said to me, “What you’ve got here is someone suicidal. He can’t commit suicide himself, so he’s going to force you to kill him. “

He was siting on an aviation fuel tank, a cylindrical tower about twenty feet high, with a rifle in one hand, a shotgun in the other and his former boss sitting ten feet away in view of FBI snipers. He said he was coming off at high noon. The tank had been filled to avoid fumes exploding from stray round. The doctor said expect him to force his killing then with his family watching. The FBI commander on-scene grew up in the same small community in Arkansas as the subject, whose mother was also his grade school teacher.

This guy’s sitting in the open on this tank. An agent rolls up in a bureau car, gets on its PA system, and said, “this is LB.” (Later number two man at the fbi.)

The guy says, “so what?”

LB says, “I see you’re from Mina, Arkansas.”

The guy says, “yeah, so what?”

“Well, I’m from mina.” There’s a pause. “Furthermore your mother was my teacher in fourth grade.” LB was trying to establish some rapport.

The subject stood up, “I hate my fucking mother!” He fired a round through the windshield of the Bureau car. Agent LB got the hell out of there. This was about ten thirty.

The small plane from Spokane lands about eleven fifty. The plane is taxiing up. He can see it. A couple cars are moving closer to the tower. At the stroke of noon the guy has his hostage start down the circular staircase wrapped around the outside of the tower. Halfway down, the hostage starts running down the steps out of the line of fire. Agents order the kidnapper to drop the guns. He turns on them. They shoot and kill him.

I roll up with other agents as this takes place. The plane with the family diverts. We jump over the retaining wall, rush up to render first aid to mr. Abernathy, now dead on the steps with aviation fuel from the penetrated tank bathing him.

We grab him off the steps, drag him over the retaining wall, put him int he trunk of a bureau car, speed out of the area to a waiting ems unit, which refused to approach after shots were fired.

Aviation fuel is spilling all over the place. The fire department is rolling up.

A Taunting and an Escort

The comic was performing his usual show at a college and talking about his being half Jewish, half Italian. “But, it ended up being pretty intense.”

“I did this joke, saying, ‘If I can’t beat the guy up, I’d sue the bastard.’”

From the audience came a yell. “Hey, Jew-boy!”

In a beat the comic replied, “Listen, pal. I wouldn’t need my lawyer for you, OK? Knock it off.”

Again came the taunt, “Jew-boy!”

It was a hot moment as the comic turned to him, “You know, look at the size of you, you big Aryan man you. I’ll be honest with you. You’d probably kick the shit out of me. There’s really nothing I could do. And, yet, I feel bad for you, because I know that’s not somethng you learned in college, how to hate Jews. So it must be something you learned at home around the dinner table. Your father, working for a rich Jewish man, saying ‘Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew-boy’. Yeah, you’d kick the shit out of me.”

As the comic scanned the audience his eyes settled on a table of black students.

“Hey you black dudes out there! If he hates Jews, you know what he thinks about you guys. Would you take that shit? ” With their attention riveted on him, he asked, “Could you do me a favor? Will you escort this asshole out of here?”

“You got it, brother!” came the reply.

The black students stood up as a group of ten and turned to the taunter. One of them said, “Get your motherfucking ass out!”

“I said, ‘Thank you.’ They walked this guy right out the door. I called to him as he left, ‘Take it easy.’”


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