Rainbow Ruins Shown To Media

Rainbow Ruins Shown To Media
Posted by FoM on September 07, 2001 at 08:20:44 PT
By John Eby, Dowagiac Daily News
Source: Dowagiac Daily News 
Cass County Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr. wasn’t much of a tour guide for media escorted three miles Sept. 5 from the command post and staging area on Black Street to the blackened remains of Rainbow Farm.He admitted he’d never been to his county’s most notorious campground before this late-summer day — gorgeous except for a charred smell lingering in the air and bits of ash fluttering on the breeze. “I’ve seen a couple of pictures of the front of the store,” known as The Joint, “but I’ve tried to stay out of those investigations except to read some paperwork.
“Fire is a terrible destroyer. It’s a pain to look at this area where everything has been burned down. I don’t know what it looked like before,” the sheriff said.“We’re always going to be second-guessed in what we do,” he said. “We feel the public has put us in charge in doing certain things and I’ve made a commitment to the County of Cass to do those right things. We hope we still have that trust in law enforcement in Cass County. I will continue to represent the public as they think they should be represented.”With the site secured, safety restored and the barrage of jarring television images of billowing smoke, fishtailing police cars, officers brandishing weapons, angry protesters shaking signs branding law enforcement officials “murderers” burned into the brain and Cass County’s reputation ricocheting around the nation alongside such federal battlegrounds as Waco and Ruby Ridge, it was time to go on the offensive.The FBI, Michigan State Police and Sheriff’s Office figuratively threw open the gates Wednesday afternoon after keeping the world at bay miles away during the standoff.“The only thing you’ve been able to see for the last five days is smoke in the air,” Underwood said. “We felt it was important that you have an opportunity to see what’s going on back here and if you have questions, we’re here to answer those.”Underwood defended the handling of the situation to all the cameras trained on him. “From the onset, the goal was to try to bring a peaceful resolution. All three agencies that were involved were under that same mindset,” Underwood said. “Whatever it took, however long we had to wait, we were not going to be the aggressors. We were going to do whatever we needed to do to try to bring this to a peaceful resolution. Unfortunately, some things weren’t in our hands.”Underwood said everything burned Friday except for the main house, which went up in flames early Tuesday after negotiations with Rolland Rohm seemed to be leading to a reunion with his son. Instead, Rohm walked outside with a rifle as the house burned and was shot when he reportedly pointed it after ignoring several warnings to drop the weapon.“Whether they were burned jointly or by one individual” is difficult to determine.“The only thing we can do is speculate” about why the buildings were set ablaze, such as pending civil forfeiture proceedings, Underwood said. Crosslin may have said, “‘If I’m not going to have this property and the buildings on it, no one else is either.’ That’s only speculation on our part,” the sheriff said. “We really don’t know why everything was completely burned. Hearings had not begun on the property.”A Battle Creek television reporter asked Underwood whether the community is safer with Rainbow Farm shut down.“We know there were weapons out here and people had been threatened not to be in this area — ‘anyone seen in this area after dark is going to be shot.’ We know that if you had an airplane and flew over this area, you were going to be shot at and it didn’t matter if it was daytime or nighttime — or whether it was a police plane, a commercial vehicle or a news vehicle. Yes, we feel that this area is now safer,” Underwood said.A South Bend, Ind., television reporter wondered, “As you look at all the ashes and think about the events of the last few days, does this make any sense to you?”“No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Underwood answered. “Court proceedings haven’t even started. There are a lot of things that have to take place in a process and that’s where these types of issues need to be resolved. That’s why you have courts.”What do you do to regain public trust and “to turn people’s opinions around? Underwood was asked.“I think we do what we have been doing and what we’ve always done in the past,” the sheriff said. “We’ve had a good relationship with the public. I think the community has a lot of trust and faith in me as their chief law enforcement officer for Cass County. I will continue to do and investigate what’s right in the county. I think once (Crosslin’s supporters) think about things and examine things, they will realize law enforcement only did what it had to do and that they used no unnecessary force. Our goal all along was to bring this to a successful conclusion with a surrender. We were working towards that.”Finding weapons and bomb-making materials was disturbing, he said.“A person who is a felon is not supposed to be in possession of these types of things,” Underwood said. “That’s certainly a concern.” Until the past five days, the sheriff said, there had been no indication Tom Crosslin intended to do anything but appear in court as scheduled on Friday, “as he had in the past.”Was there any sign of a change in mood or thought given to martyrdom in light of the remark reported that he warned neighbors to evacuate before “all hell broke loose” and began roaming the grounds wearing camouflage clothing. “That came Friday, when things started happening,” Underwood recalled of the change in Crosslin’s demeanor. “The buildings got set afire, people observed him out here in camouflage, carrying a weapon, and telling them to get out of the area, that ‘all hell was going to break loose.’ To our knowledge,” that wasn’t Crosslin’s normal behavior.“We didn’t know exactly what we had,” the sheriff said. “The first call came in about 12:15. The hearing time was for 1:30. When 1:30 came and went and his attorney showed, but he didn’t show up, and about 12:30 is when the (WNDU-TV) helicopter (responding to a fire reported at Rainbow Farm) was flying over and shots were fired at it. It was hard to get a read on it. We knew we had a situation out there. How bad it was, we didn’t know, but we knew it was serious because we had a helicopter shot at and we knew Mr. Crosslin told people to get out of the area.“It could have been even worse than it was,” Underwood said. “We were prepared to continue to negotiate, all three agencies. We were not going to try to take the house. We wanted to be back, try to talk and work through this. It’s unfortunate.”An Aug. 17-18 festival in defiance of a court order not to hold any more gatherings until a trial scheduled for February 2002 exposed Crosslin to revocation of his $150,000 bond from charges brought in May following a raid.Did that represent a previously-unpublicized turning point for Crosslin?Underwood answered, “The show-cause hearing for him to appear in court and defend was that undercover officers were in here and the same type of activities were going on. It was publicized, but at a lesser dollar amount. I don’t remember if it was on the Web site.”Television journalists kept prodding the sheriff to talk about the incongruity of such a violent end and weapons pointed at police officers at a “peace and love place.”“His other situations have been handled in court and we felt he would continue to follow that,” Underwood said. “We didn’t feel this case was any different than other ones he’d been involved in. We always want to use legal channels and we want citizens to do the same thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. We try to be professional and make sure we do things the way they’re supposed to be done. We’re not the aggressors and we look for peaceful resolutions to situations.”The third man on the property during Crosslin’s death, Brandon James Peoples, was released after a statement was taken. Underwood said he entered the property Tuesday noon by hiking through the woods from the north side. He knew Crosslin, who motioned him in. “He was not carrying weapons and we’ve been able to verify his story. He was released the same evening” and is free to tell his story, the sheriff said, although according to other reports the FBI asked him not to talk about what he saw.Source: Dowagiac Daily News (MI)Author: John Eby, Dowagiac Daily NewsPublished: Friday, September 7, 2001Copyright: 2001 Dowagiac Daily NewsContact: dailynews leaderpub.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Rainbow Farm Campground Crosslin & Rolland Rohm Memorial Chicken Coop Left as 10 Buildings Burn Booby Traps Found
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