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Militiaman misses chance to put philosophy into practice

Saturday, June 17, 2000

Much to the disappointment of anyone who loves to see a man of destiny fulfill his, police in Illinois this week arrested Dan Shoemaker, janitor and patriot.

Shoemaker, the author of the U.S. Militiaman's Handbook, had announced he would march today in the Illinois towns of Galesburg and Monmouth on behalf of the right to keep and bear arms. That he intended to do so equipped with an assault rifle and sidearm, and had pledged to ventilate any gendarme who undertook to disarm him, assured an especially energetic exchange of constitutional views.

"I will live free or die," Shoemaker told a gathering of the Western Illinois Militia.

As it turns out, he is doing neither. He is alive and in custody, charged with aggravated intimidation of public officials.

Shoemaker's militia handbook, which has enriched the backpacks of extremists around the republic, is the authoritative how-to manual on shooting the neighbors, knocking off municipal officials and otherwise taking up sporting goods in defense of assorted God-given rights. Here's a sample from Chapter 9:

"Successful assassination requires some kind of a plan. But, then too, there is always the random hunting method. What about solitary assassins? Well brother, if you are the last free man left alive in your area, hunt the enemy. Make it count."

I called Shoemaker a few years ago to find out if he was serious. He assured me he was. The Secret Service, he said, had stopped by his house when the president made a visit to Galesburg. They discussed his manual, especially Chapter 9.

"They were very interested in that portion," he giggled.

We had a pleasant enough conversation. He seemed amused by my curiosity. We discussed politics -- he had run for the Illinois Legislature in 1990. What struck me about Shoemaker was that he seemed less a revolutionary in pursuit of a new order than a hobbyist in search of an entertaining fantasy. Snoopy on his Sopwith Camel-doghouse came to mind.

In recent months, Shoemaker's wife, distressed that he was paying too much attention to issues foreign and not enough to those domestic, asked that he leave the house.

Shoemaker called a meeting of the militia at a farm outside Oquawka, Ill. With television cameras rolling, he said God had spoken to him and that he would take up his weapons and march in the centers of Galesburg and Monmouth. If police tried to stop him, things would get violent. He asked his followers to kill any "enemies of liberty."

On four consecutive Saturdays, Shoemaker trained for his march. He would show up in Galesburg at 9 a.m., get out of his car, walk around the Public Safety building, then drive to Monmouth to do the same. It struck prosecutors that Shoemaker was engaged in dress rehearsals for a suicide-by-cop.

On Thursday morning, after prosecutors in both Monmouth and Galesburg had typed up statements from police and sheriff's deputies Shoemaker had promised he would shoot if they tried to stop him this weekend, police converged on his car as he arrived at his place of work.

Police carted him off to jail and unburdened his car of a loaded assault rifle, two pistols with full clips and 400 rounds of ammunition.

His place of employment was the Abingdon Middle School. Capt. Dan Shoemaker, who planned to shoot it out in the town square, worked at a middle school.

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