The Medina, ND Shootout – 1983

In 1983, a very violent gunbattle took place in Medina, North Dakota. Although less well known than the Miami Massacre in 1986, it was every bit as bloody and violent. Something it had in common with the Miami Massacre was the decisiveness of long guns at pistol fight ranges and preparation for conflict.

On one side was a task force of US Marshals and local law enforcement officers. On the other side were members of a local Posse Comitatus group. Casualties were high on both sides. Four months later, a second related encounter, hundreds of miles away, brought more loss of life.

The Prelude

Gordon Kahl was a Midwestern farmer and Federal tax resister. He was a member of a loosely knit organization called the Posse Comitatus. The Posse recognized no authority above the county level and held many hateful beliefs. He had been imprisoned for Federal tax evasion but had been released on probation. However, he failed to report to his Probation Officer and a Federal warrant for his arrest was issued.

The US Marshal’s Office in North Dakota determined to take him into custody as a result of information received that Kahl was attending a meeting in Medina. The Marshal, Ken Muir, and three Deputies; Carl Wigglesworth, James Hopson Jr., and Robert Cheshire drove to Medina to make the arrest. There, they were joined by a Stutsman County Deputy Sheriff, Bradley Kapp, and a Medina Police Officer, Steve Schnabel.

On request of the Medina police Chief, the determination was made to conduct the arrest just outside of town. This was because Kahl was known to carry a Mini-14 rifle at all times. The Chief did not wish to have violence within the town itself that would endanger the townspeople.

A roadblock was set up on the route out of town by Marshal Muir, Deputy Wigglesworth, and Officer Schnabel. The remaining Deputies stayed in town to follow Kahl once he left the meeting. Deputy Kapp joined Deputy Marshals Cheshire and Hopson in the Ramcharger.

Accompanying Kahl to the meeting were his wife, Joan, his son, Yorie Kahl, his friends, Scott Faul, Vernon Wagner, and Dave Broer. Several of the males in the Kahl party were armed with rifles. Joan was not armed.

When the meeting finished, the Kahl party departed town in two vehicles, unknowingly headed toward the roadblock. The stage was set for a bloody shootout.

Muir and Cheshire

In the aftermath of the shootout, Muir and Cheshire would lie dead. Hopson, Kapp, Schnabel, and Yorie Kahl would be seriously wounded. Yorie Kahl and Scott Faul would be convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Gordon+Kahl+Wanted+Poster+1983

Gordon Kahl was killed, along with Lawrence County (Arkansas) Sheriff Gene Matthews, the following June. A nationwide manhunt had tracked him to Arkansas where a confrontation with local and Federal law enforcement officers took place.

The Marshals Service memorial to Muir and Cheshire can be found here.

5 responses

  1. […] Source: The Medina, ND Shootout – 1983 […]

  2. I am surprised that you didn’t include what happened when Gordon Kahl was captured, killed, and how he was killed.

    1. Good thought but that is a story in and of itself. I’ll write about it around the anniversary of that shootout.

  3. We have seen the same situation recently in Oregon, as well as other incidents in the past, where the decision is made to make the arrest in a “safer” location – ending in a violent shootout. I know you don’t have a crystal ball but any thoughts on whether or not this tactic is actually provoking violence? Most of these folks feel like they are being persecuted by authority of some sort and may well be somewhat paranoid. I wonder if the ambush-like setting in a remote location plays on that mindset more so than an attempted arrest, in town, surrounded by community members. I understand the desire for safety but not sure the mindset of the target is appropriately understood.

    1. That’s a pertinent question regarding this type of incident. My personal opinion has to be viewed in light of the fact I have never been a law enforcement officer.

      Anti-government protesters, while capable of being violent, do not have the same sociopathic bent seen in anti-social personality disorder infected criminals, IMO. It’s not clear to me that the law enforcement community understands this.

      LEOs are reluctant to make arrests of demonstrably violent criminals in populated areas. That is both reasonable and laudable. Their job is to protect the community not endanger it. For instance, wanting to arrest Platt and Matix prior to their re-entry to South Dixie Highway, where many people were, made sense and was a good decision.

      However, in the case of anti-government protesters, we now have ample evidence that attempting to arrest them in out of the way places has a high likelihood of leading to bloodshed. The violence will almost always reflect poorly in public opinion of the LEO community. It’s probably worthwhile to explore other methods or venues of taking such persons into custody.

      For instance, Marshal Muir’s predecessor, who was still a DUSM in ND at the time, devised a plan for taking Gordon Kahl into custody in the one place he did not carry his rifle, the grocery store when he was shopping with his wife. It has been reported that the Texas Rangers, I believe, wanted to take David Koresh into custody when he was in town and unarmed. Said plan was vetoed by the BATF, according to that report.

      That being said, I am not responsible for protecting citizens in the areas where such an alternate plan would be carried out. It’s much easier for those of us who don’t have to make policy and live with the consequences, either way, to Monday morning quarterback. And on the opposing side, armed persons who proclaim they will not be taken alive, and their supporters, shouldn’t be surprised when law enforcement officers take them at their word.

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