Ann Arbor Area Community News
Militia activity continues to thrive in the nation, but especially in Michigan. The question is, is US law enforcement protecting us?
Geoffrey Gagnon, former editor-in-chief of the Michigan Daily, reports from the front lines in Legal Affairs.
In 2003, Norman Somerville, loaded with weapons and seething with militant urgency, was prepared to make something happen in rural Northern Michigan. A Special Forces veteran linked to militia cells, Somerville was fed up and itching for a showdown. Police had recently killed Scott Woodring, a fellow militia member, in a shootout as they attempted to arrest him for the killing of a state trooper. Woodring’s death touched off angry web-postings among militia sympathizers and galvanized Somerville to strike at police. On a 40-acre compound outside the hamlet of Mesick, he plotted what prosecutors would later describe as “a violent militia conspiracy” to avenge Woodring’s death. Somerville fortified his property, built an underground bunker, and collected machine guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. He kept photographs of President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with the crosshairs of rifle scopes drawn over their faces. Above the ground, hidden by tree limbs, Somerville positioned a massive anti-aircraft gun that he trained on the approach to his property. And he readied the pride of his arsenal—vehicles he referred to as the twin “war wagons.” Somerville had outfitted his Jeep and van with M1919 .30 caliber machine guns capable of emptying 550 rounds in a minute. The Jeep, with its passenger seat removed, boasted a mounted gun turret. Somerville planned to use the Jeep to cause a traffic accident and then to open fire on police when they arrived at the scene. In late 2003, authorities learned that Somerville was about to carry out his plan, and they moved in. He was convicted on weapons charges and sentenced to six and a half years in prison. In court, prosecutors called the rural handyman a “psychologically deranged man who was armed to the teeth, filled with hate, high on dope and had his finger on the trigger.” After his arrest, Somerville said he had handed out or traded illegal machine guns to others, and he warned authorities of a network of “shadowy rebels” preparing for “a quiet civil war” in rural Michigan.
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