My ex-wife was in New York with her brother when I received the phone call supporting and warning me (Previous post). I decided to tell her piecemeal about the warning. Her words had been prophetic—there were threats.
Within weeks of the warning, I was teaching a class at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. During that three-day course, my colleague ran an exercise entitled: “The Rate of Violent Acts Compared in States With and Without Weapons Laws.” The class was divided into two groups. One was to argue that if states had laws allowing concealed weapons, there would be fewer murders and fewer rapes. The other half was to argue the opposite.
One of the groups used the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law as an example of the wisdom of carrying concealed guns. The student launched into an emotional argument about the liberal press not printing that two students ran to their cars to get guns and help in subduing Peter Odighizuwa.
The issue was so simple for this young man. The world was either “black or white.” To carry a gun or not to carry a gun—that is all that counts. Where were the guns when they were needed to prevent three people from being murdered? How did these students’ guns prevent a young woman from walking around with a bullet in her body the rest of her life? How did other students having a gun stop Odighizuwa from having a gun and murdering three people?
He seemed to have had no idea of, nor had he given any thought to the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, there is something wrong in a society where a man can beat up his family and go out and buy a gun. The fact that innocent people were murdered, the fact that children have been left without a parent; these facts did not seem to enter into the young man’s mental equation.
What about the psychological scars on a seven-year-old girl, because her mother has been gunned down? None of these questions entered into his thinking. As long as he can run his life as if he were preparing for the gunfight at O.K. Corral—that is all that seemed to matter to him. The young man seemed to say carry a gun, shoot first and ask questions later; that is the answer to all life’s problems.
What about the events, the factors, that lead up to gun violence? Those who advocate that we all arm ourselves never look at other issues of the problem. They don’t look at the deep flaws in our society that make people so anxiety prone that they cannot function without having a weapon at their side.
Once the subject of the Appalachian School of Law was raised, I used the opportunity to raise Angie’s murder, the e-mail and the warnings with the FBI agent who was sponsoring the training. Unlike the law school, the Virginia State Police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Grundy, the FBI zeroed in on the e-mail.
The agent described the e-mail as having the specific signature of someone who might be a serial killer. He appeared shocked that Virginia officials had not followed up on it. The agent spent several hours with me. He said he wanted to turn the e-mail over to the unit that had handled “the silence of the lambs.” This e-mail he asserted, “Needs to be looked at by criminal psychologist—this e-mail is way beyond that of a momentarily angry response by a normal person. This could easily be the work of a psychopath.”
When I told him that the State Police had never gotten the necessary court papers to go to the server and nail down who sent the e-mail—he simply shook his head in disbelief.
“I know all about southwestern Virginia,” he said. He then asserted that the corruption—both in the public and private sectors—is an ongoing problem there. “It is ironic,” he mused, “that southwestern Virginians wrap themselves in a blanket of Christianity, patriotism, respect for the law, and self-righteousness…..yet, nearly all of them seem to hate the federal government. Their elected officials and businessmen bilk their fellow citizens out of every cent they can at every turn.” On this latter point, the FBI agent appeared to be referring to the recent “Coon Dog” scandal. The scandal centered on the arrest of sixteen of Grundy’s leading citizens, including the former chairman of the county board of supervisors on charges of accepting bribes in connection with the awarding of bribes for $7.6 million for awarding federally financed flood cleanup contracts.
“All the defendants, country office holders and contractors, as well as one FEMA employee, were involved in the awarding of contracts to help the town of Hurley rebuild after the 2002 deadly flood. The press quoted the federal prosecutor as describing the defendants’ actions as a “feeding frenzy of bribes, kickbacks and inflated contracts. … The bribes added up to $545,000.00, including expensive coon dogs.”
“So I have been told,” I responded. “When you drive through the spectacular mountains of the region you can’t help but think, never has so much natural beauty covered so much evil and corruption.”
“A good way to put it,” the agent said. “I am from that part of Virginia, I have been shot and nearly died in the line of duty for the FBI, but I don’t tell anyone down there where I work—they would disown me!”
“Their logic and ethical inconsistency sure beats the hell out of me,” that was the only thing I could say. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Here was a man sitting in front of me, a former Marine, who has put his life on the line for this country; yet he revealed that he has family and friends in southwestern Virginia—chest-beating patriots—whom he could not tell about his employment. He could not tell them that he works for the FBI.
When I turned to the warning I had received, he told me to take it seriously. The agent told me never to travel in Buchanan County or the surrounding area without a cell phone and tape recorder. He followed this up by saying that if I were stopped by the police, I should hit the automatic dial on the phone and have it programmed to my lawyer and turn on the recorder immediately.
I told him I was not overly concerned, but he again cautioned me, “these people operate by their own rules.” The FBI agent volunteered that he had relatives from the Grundy area and he knows all to well that they have their own way of handling things. He then asked me for the names of all the people I had been dealing with in connection with the shooting.
I promised to do that and have since sent him the list of names. I did use the occasion to say that the only one I considered to be a threat to me was Officer Parker—the man who was verbally threatening during a meeting in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. I also relayed a mild concern over officer Santolla. “Why,” I asked, “would he have told Angie’s parents to make him look good, if there was nothing wrong, nothing to hide?”
The agent appeared to agree with me and said that is why he would like a list of all the officials I have dealt with. In case something should happen to me the FBI will have a place to start looking. He added that it does not hurt to have an insurance policy in case something should happen. (To be continued)