Michigan Drug Warriors Drive Marijuana Activists to the Brink,
Then Gun Them Down: Standoff Ends With Two Dead at Rainbow Farm
Grover T. (Tom) Crosslin lived for the cause of marijuana
legalization. Early this week he died for it. Crosslin, 46, the
owner and operator of Rainbow Farm, an alternative campground and
concert site in Newberg Township outside of Vandalia, Michigan
(http://www.rainbowfarmcampground.com), was shot and killed on
his property by an FBI agent Monday afternoon. His long-time
partner, Rolland Rohm, was shot and killed by Michigan State
Police on the property early Tuesday morning. The shootings
ended a stand-off that began last Friday afternoon, but the
fallout from the killings is only beginning.
Throughout the Labor Day weekend, according to law enforcement
accounts, Crosslin and Rohm systematically burned down the ten
structures on their beloved farm, shot at and hit a news
helicopter filming the fires, shot at and missed a police
surveillance plane, sprayed the woods bordering the 34-acre
property with gunfire to keep police at bay, and separately
confronted law officers with raised weapons, only to be shot
[In the rural Midwest, the marijuana culture sometimes intersects
with an angry populism inscrutable to progressives on both
coasts. Here, where Waco and Ruby Ridge echo still and where
militia men mix with less militant redneck potheads and even more
mellow country hippies, conspiracy theories are already springing
up around the killings. Everything from the size of the alleged
bullet holes in the news chopper ("too big") to the alleged
shooting at aircraft itself ("too convenient" -- it allowed the
FBI in), to the actual details of the killings has already been
challenged in the movement's electronic media. But while the
official version of events provided by state, local, and federal
officials remains unverified, it also remains so far
As the four-day stand-off progressed, while negotiations between
Crosslin and Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood sputtered and
ultimately failed, Rainbow Farm supporters gathered nearby by the
dozens to mount a vigil and demand justice and a peaceful
resolution of the siege. "Those who make peaceful revolution
impossible demand violent revolution," read one sign at the
Beginning in 1996, Crosslin had sponsored pro-marijuana rallies
under a variety of names at Rainbow Farm. While he was a visible
and outspoken proponent of reforming the marijuana laws, the
rallies caused few legal problems until this year. But things
began to unravel in May when local law enforcement authorities,
using the traffic death of a youth who had attended the festival
as a pretext, swept down on the compound, arresting Crosslin and
Rohm, among others, and charging them with a variety of marijuana
and firearms violations. Though police emphasized the traffic
death (which occurred the day after the youth was at the
campground) in justifying the bust at the time, they later
revealed that it came as the result of a two-year-long
investigation of Crosslin's activities at the farm.
By mid-summer, the pressure on Crosslin and Rohm was mounting.
Crosslin faced 20 years in prison on the marijuana and weapons
charges, was out of jail on a $150,000 bail bond, and the state
was moving to seize Rainbow Farm under civil asset forfeiture
proceedings. A local judge had issued an injunction barring
Crosslin from holding any further marijuana-related gatherings at
the campground. And in a move that must have elevated the pair's
situation from intolerable to unbearable, Michigan child welfare
authorities had taken Rohm's 12-year-old son and placed him in
foster care after the May raid.
In mid-August, Crosslin defied the injunction, holding a small
rally at the campground. Police observing the property reported
they had seen Crosslin and Rohm smoking marijuana. Cass County
Prosecutor Scott Teter then moved to have Crosslin's bail
revoked, which in all probability meant that last Friday, when
the bail revocation hearing was scheduled, would have been his
last taste of freedom for years to come.
Crosslin didn't show up for the hearing. As county officials
were preparing a warrant for his arrest, they received reports of
fires at the farm's address on state highway M-60, 13 miles west
of Three Rivers. Crosslin and Rohm, apparently deciding that all
was lost, had begun torching buildings. Police, claiming they
had received an anonymous tip that the fires were an ambush,
stayed on the perimeter, but built up their forces to include a
SWAT team complete with an armored personnel carrier. By Monday,
they were joined by FBI agents, who gained jurisdiction because
of the alleged firing at aircraft, a federal crime, and by Monday
afternoon, Crosslin was dead, shot by two of three FBI agents in
an observation post at his property line. Crosslin, armed and
wearing camouflage, according to law enforcement accounts, and
accompanied by 18-year-old Brandon Peoples, refused FBI orders to
surrender his weapon, instead pointed his rifle at them, and was
shot and killed. Peoples, who had snuck past police lines onto
the property, suffered minor injuries, was questioned by the FBI
and released. Under instructions from the FBI, he has not spoken
publicly about the shooting.
Rohm died early the next morning at the hands of Michigan State
Police, who, according to their own account, had moved in to
accept his surrender. Police said Rohm had agreed to surrender
if he could first meet with his son, but shortly before the
agreed upon hour another fire broke out and Rohm emerged from the
burning building, armed and in camouflage. He refused to
surrender his weapon, police said, instead pointing it at them.
He was then shot and killed.
While the reactions of friends and supporters of Crosslin, Rohm,
and Rainbow farm fluctuate from shock to anger to despair to
bewilderment and back, prominent members of the marijuana reform
movement who share those sentiments are also having to do a cold
political calculus. The marijuana movement nationally is seeing
record levels of support, and Michigan is itself in the midst of
petition drive to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the
ballot next year. Crosslin, in fact, had long supported that
effort. Whether the Rainbow Farm killings will hurt or help the
movement is the question facing the politicos.
While some organizations queasy about the possible political
fallout have declined to comment on the shootings, National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
(http://www.norml.org) executive director Keith Stroup talked to
DRCNet about the politics of the incident.
"If the goal is to get the public to react with outrage to police
use of force, the facts are not perfect here," he said. "But
remember, this started out as indictment for marijuana. With
these laws, you invite this kind of situation that ends up as a
violent encounter. These were two men who were ordinarily quite
peaceable and peace-loving, not violent and crazy, but they were
driven to behave in a hostile and irrational manner. If the
authorities had not done all that they did to these men, they
would not have reacted the way they did. I'm not certain I
wouldn't do the same thing in similar circumstances," he said.
"But one does not have to entirely defend the actions of these
two men to indict the police in this case," Stroup argued. "That
they killed Crosslin was a tragedy, but when they came back a few
hours later and shot Rohm, that was just inconceivable. Don't
tell me the police had no tools in their arsenal but lethal
force. If they find a bear rummaging in the trash, they go out
and anesthetize it. You'd think humans deserved at least the
same treatment. I hope there will be a grand jury to investigate
these killings," said Stroup, "I hope there will be indictments."
There is no word yet from local authorities on a grand jury --
the role of Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter as a key target of
any investigation makes a local grand jury problematic -- but the
US Justice Department has announced that it will investigate the
"This is dangerous territory politically," said Stroup, referring
to the possible impact of the killings on the prospects for
Michigan's ongoing marijuana legalization initiative campaign,
the Personal Responsibility Amendment (http://www.mi4norml.org).
"Our folks in Michigan feel a terrible sense of loss, but they
are trying to figure out how to respond without getting into the
middle of a battle that is tangential to their main goal. The
association of this violence with marijuana could make it more
difficult for the PRA to gain support, even though it obviously
remains the correct position," Stroup said. "But after the
second killing, it is no longer possible to remain silent. We
cannot in good conscience sit by and be silent while they execute
Saginaw attorney Greg Schmid is the man behind the PRA. "I knew
these guys," he told DRCNet. "I've been out there, I've spoken
there a few times. Like every other campground where there were
rock concerts and the like, people smoked pot. But they used to
laugh about it. Tim was a super nice guy," said Schmid. "Those
guys did a lot of community service work, handing out toys and
Easter eggs and things like that. But by last Friday, those guys
had had enough. They had had their kid taken and put in foster
Morel "Moses" Yonkers describes himself as a long-time friend of
Crosslin and Rohm despite having what he called a "falling-out"
with Crosslin last year. "I started working with Tom doing
housing renovations in Elkhart," he told DRCNet. "He was always
talking about wanting to buy a big, beautiful, peaceful place.
Then he got a chance to buy Rainbow Farm and he took it. I spent
eight years living on the farm with Tom and Rollie. Tom loved
his freedom and wanted to help make everyone else free, too,"
said Yonkers. For Yonkers, the bust earlier this year and the
subsequent persecution of Crosslin by local authorities only
amplified Crosslin's mistrust of the government. "He really
believed in liberty, and he watched the government hard because
of Waco and Ruby Ridge," said Yonkers. But it was the loss of
Rohm's child that really tore at the couple, he said. "Rollie
was at my camp just a few weeks ago crying about the kid,"
In one of his last communications, delivered through his lawyer
during the siege, Doreen Leo, Crosslin emphatically confirmed
Yonkers and Schmid's assessment of his motivation. "The right-
wing prosecutor (Teter) and his rubber stamp (Cass County) Judge
(Michael E.) Dodge have stolen our child and they are who we hold
responsible. They no longer serve the people, they only serve
themselves. They must resign. Admit publicly what they have
done to our family," Leo read.
While Schmid mourns the loss of an ally, he is also wary of the
political impact on the marijuana legalization initiative.
"There are a lot of people who are very angry about this," he
told DRCNet, "and that may help us get the signatures we need.
But it may also excite enough interest to beat us in a general
election. We are in the damage control mode right now."
While the field marshals wage their wars of position, Crosslin's
and Rohm's friends mourn and remember. Moses Yonkers' spirits
lifted audibly as he recalled with pride -- that Crosslin shared,
he said -- that High Times had named the farm "the 14th best
place in the world to get stoned." "Tom believed in our right to
smoke," said Yonkers. To that end, Crosslin helped finance his
years on the hemp festival circuit. "We created the Hemp Center
-- at first, it was basically just to hand out Rainbow Farm
fliers -- but Tom paid for my travel and expenses while I went to
about every hemp festival in America for five years," Yonkers
Crosslin's generosity wasn't limited to the movement, according
to Yonkers. "Hell, I remember one year when the mayor came to us
on Christmas Eve saying there weren't enough toys for the town's
kids. Tom jumped up and charged $2,000 worth of presents on his
Sears card. He wasn't sure he could pay for it, but that didn't
stop him. That's the kind of guy he was."
Yonkers and others took issue with law enforcement depictions of
the farm's festivals as dens of depravity. "Those were beautiful
events," he said. "I was there for Hemp Aid 2000, there were
5,000 people around the campfires and peace was breaking out
everywhere. We had security people, but they didn't have much to
do except direct traffic, and maybe chase away the occasional
tank of nitrous. Yeah, people smoked pot -- these were pot
rallies, you know. We spent five or six years trying to change
the marijuana laws, working with Greg Schmid and the PRA."
Richard Lake of Escanaba, Michigan, also attended events at
Rainbow Farm. "I knew Tim from the hemp fests and saw him at the
Ann Arbor Hash Bashes. He talked there," Lake told DRCNet.
Lake, who helps operate the Media Awareness Project's
(http://www.mapinc.org) drug news archive, said lurid press
accounts of goings-on at Rainbow Farm taken from law enforcement
sources were overdone. "I saw their efforts to throw out people
who were dealing drugs," said Lake. "They could have found as
much drug dealing at any rock concert or on any college campus.
Are they closing down the college campuses?"
Other Crosslin supporters expressed their sentiments with signs.
Brothers Darren and Lloyd Daniels, who live less than a mile down
the road from Rainbow Farm, put the blame squarely on Cass County
Prosecutor Scott Teter. "How does it feel to have innocent blood
on your hands, Teter?" asked a sign they placed in their yard.
The brothers told the local newspaper, the Herald-Palladium, that
the prosecution of Crosslin and Rohm typified Cass County's
intolerance. "I've got friends here getting busted with seeds
and stems," Lloyd said.
"The police should have realized that sending in FBI agents to
spy on the property was a provocation," said Lake. "Why? There
was a series of mistakes on both sides, I guess. When it became
clear to Tim that there was no escape, I'm not surprised they
burned the place down rather than give it to the government. I
wish the two of them had just gone to Canada. It's sad and scary
and a lot of people are angry and upset."
As for protests or other actions, Yonkers said no plans were firm
yet. "Right now, we're planning funerals," he said.
[Funeral services for Tim Crosslin will be held Saturday 9/8
(tomorrow) at 11:00am at Walley Mills Zimmerman Funeral Home, 700
E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart, Indiana. Rohm's body is undergoing a
second autopsy at the request of his family; his funeral
arrangements have not yet been announced.]
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