September 5, 2001
Vandalia standoff claims 2nd life
By JIM MEENAN
Tribune Staff Writer
VANDALIA ---- Rolland Rohm's father arrived Tuesday morning hopeful of a
peaceful solution to his son's standoff with police at Rainbow Farm Campground.
Also hoping for an amenable ending were Rolland Rohm's mother, Gerry
Livermore, and her husband, John, who had driven for 12 hours Monday night
to Vandalia from near Chattanooga, Tenn.
But when a minister arrived sometime after 9 a.m. EDT at a police staging
area near the intersection of Black Street and White Temple Road, John
Livermore knew it was a bad sign. And when Cass County Sheriff Joseph
Underwood met with the news media about 10 a.m. EDT, his worst fears were
Rolland Rohm, 28, was already dead. He had died early Monday morning.
According to Underwood, at 6:30 a.m. EDT, Rohm was observed leaving the
residence at the campground with a long gun and he walked out into the yard.
After several orders to put down the weapon, Rohm pointed the weapon at a
Michigan State Police Emergency Support Team member.
At that moment, Rohm was fatally wounded, Underwood said.
Rohm's close friend, Grover T. "Tom" Crosslin, 46, whom he had lived with
for 11 years, was shot Monday night by an FBI agent when he, too, had
pointed a gun at law enforcement.
Underwood would not divulge how many times Rohm was shot or where.
Both men had been facing drug charges from arrests in May.
Crosslin was charged with manufacturing marijuana, more than 200 plants;
maintaining a drug house; felony firearm possession during commission of a
crime; and firearm possession by a felon.
Rohm was initially charged with manufacturing marijuana, more than 200
plants; maintaining a drug house; and felony firearms. The last two charges
were dismissed on June 22, court records show.
Another man, 18-year-old James Peoples, received minor injuries during the
standoff, but he was not in custody and was not charged with any crime.
Though some of Crosslin's supporters were questioning police's handling of
the events in the five-day standoff Tuesday, Underwood said people should
examine the facts involved.
Both men had been holed up at the campground since fires were set there
Friday and police and fire officials were advised not to come in.
"I think you have to look at the situation and the events of what has
happened here and what steps that were taken to try to end this very
peacefully," Underwood said.
"We did not go up to the house. We had observers back from the house. They
engaged our officers that were out in the field. There was no aggressive
attempt made by law enforcement. They were engaged at the site.
"They were 100 yards back or more last night. ... After setting the house
on fire, he comes out with a weapon. And he engages officers again and they
have to respond."
Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Risko defended police actions and said Rohm
was repeatedly ordered to put down his gun.
"In each occasion, both subjects pointed firearms at officers, and I don't
know what else you would have officers do," Risko said.
The FBI has said little about the standoff. Crosslin was shot by a federal
agent, and Rohm by state police.
Special Agent Dawn Clenney said officials were investigating and still did
not know what sparked the standoff.
FBI and state police investigators planned to spend Tuesday night outside
"It's a big crime scene out there," Clenney said. "We've got a lot to do."
A total of five buildings burned down during the five-day standoff. Newberg
Township Fire Department firefighters put out several hot spots Tuesday
The violent ending came just minutes before police were expecting Rohm to
Rohm's attorney, Dori Leo, of the Vlachos and Vlachos firm of Kalamazoo,
had spoken to him via walkie-talkie for one half hour before midnight Monday.
At about 3:45 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Rohm requested that his son, Robert, 13, be
brought to see him and he would then surrender at 7 a.m. EDT, Underwood said.
Law enforcement authorities were in the process of granting this request,
Underwood said, when at about 6:12 a.m. EDT, it was reported there was a
glow in the upstairs of the residence on Rainbow Farm and that it was on fire.
Rohm was then observed leaving the residence at 6:30 a.m. EDT before
pointing the long gun at Michigan State Police and being fatally shot.
"It's very frustrating," Underwood said. "He did not appear agitated when
we were making arrangements for him to come out. We wanted a peaceful
So did Rohm's family and friends, some of whom claimed officials were not
telling the truth Tuesday.
"They made a deal with Rollie that they would bring his son over here," his
stepfather, John Livermore, said. "Rollie was not violent. He was slow. He
was easily led. He had a learning disability. He trusted them. They made a
"At a few minutes before 7, they say he came out with a gun. I don't
believe he did. I believe that he walked out expecting to see his son and
he met his death."
Livermore was also mad that police did not let him or other family members,
including Livermore's wife, Gerry, Rohm's mother, and his father, Robert
Rohm, talk to Rohm.
"I wish they would have let us talk him out," he said. "We were here. They
knew we were coming.
"They told me just as soon as they made contact with them this morning,
that they would allow me to go ahead and talk to Tom and Rollie. I told
them that I had good communication with them and I know I could talk them
both out. But they did not want them to come out."
Livermore said they did not know that Crosslin had been killed until
Tuesday morning after they arrived. Livermore said he and his wife were
planning on taking legal action.
"We thought there was a chance to get him out," Gerry Livermore said. "I
was frustrated this morning when I could not get him out.
"We do not believe he came out with a gun. I am shocked but now my main
concern is his grandson."
Underwood said family members were not called upon to speak with Rohm
because police believed that things were under control.
"We felt we had established a relationship with Rolland," Underwood said.
"We had a conversation with him. We had an agreement with him.
"His son was brought here to the command area. This was the first time we
had actually had a dialogue with Mr. Rohm and we felt we were bringing it
to a successful conclusion at 3:45 a.m."
A few miles from the campground, on Michigan 60 on Tuesday afternoon,
Crosslin and Rohm supporters had signs placed supporting the campgrounds
and its leader.
They, too, were asking questions.
"I can't believe if he thought his life was going to be threatened that he
would shoot one round at two men," David Watts, a friend and past employee
of Crosslin's said of Tom's death Monday. "I don't understand it."
Trena Moss, of Hillsdale, Mich., also was at the site on M-60.
"The whole thing could have been handled differently," Moss said. "The
whole thing is insane.
I can't get over it.
"It's not just here but what is happening all over the country. What is
happening to our government and why is our government persecuting the
people? All we are trying to do is help people."
Crosslin's uncle felt police could have left things alone.
"What they did on Tom's property was Tom's business," said his uncle,
George Coldwell, of Elkhart.
"It's a very hard situation to talk about, very hard," said Crosslin's
aunt, Josephine Vanitta from Smithville, Tenn. "I don't believe Tom meant
to kill anyone."
John Livermore was choked up.
"We were an hour late," he said. "It's just a sick society. That's all it
is, a sick society. If you've got somebody that's a thorn in your side, you
just kill them and get rid of them. And that's not right."
Underwood said authorities feared the campground was booby trapped.
Local, state and federal officials were still at the campground Tuesday
afternoon. A bomb squad also was on the scene, but Risko said no bombs had
"The house is still smoldering, so it will be a few days before we get the
investigation part of it done," Risko said.
Tribune staff writer Christine Cox and The Associated Press contributed to
Staff writer Jim Meenan:
September 5, 2001
Crosslin's passions led to downfall
By LOU MUMFORD and CHRISTINE COX
Tribune Staff Writers
VANDALIA -- Grover T. "Tom" Crosslin had plans for his home, the sorely
neglected former Underground Railroad site at the intersection of Michigan
60 and Calvin Center Road.
Crosslin was passionate about restoring the historic place. Passionate
about his belief in the legalization of marijuana and in the righteousness
of personal freedom.
Those passions likely contributed to his death Monday afternoon.
Crosslin, 46, died when he was shot by an FBI agent on the perimeter of his
property, the Rainbow Farm Campground, 59896 Pemberton Road. He had held
police at bay for four days before pointing a rifle at the agent, who then
shot him, Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood said.
Also killed on the property was Rolland Rohm, 28, who lived with Crosslin.
He was shot Tuesday after he allegedly set fire to the farm house and
walked outside with a rifle.
Underwood said Rohm pointed the weapon at a Michigan State trooper, and the
officer fired in response.
An ardent supporter of marijuana legalization, Crosslin was known for
holding festivals and concerts during which visitors allegedly got high.
But he had other interests and a kind heart, family and friends said.
He was remembered Tuesday not as a law breaker, but as a kind, caring
individual who staged Easter egg hunts for children and believed strongly
in individual rights.
"Tom had the biggest heart I ever saw. He wouldn't stand for any injustice.
He had this sense of fairness about him," said Trena Moss, a Hillsdale,
Mich., woman who identified herself as a friend and supporter.
His sister, Shirley DeWeese, of Elkhart, said that it was only when people
"started pushing him," that Crosslin felt the need to push back.
"They did nothing to deserve the way it ended," DeWeese said of Crosslin
In June, Crosslin talked about how he found success after dropping out of
high school and working a number of jobs that ranged from driving trucks to
The former Elkhart resident ultimately found success in real estate.
In July 2000, Crosslin bought the former Bonine home, the Underground
A history buff, he was working to restore the house into a
bed-and-breakfast, complete with basement visits to see an underground
tunnel that slaves squeezed through on their way to freedom.
A talented craftsman, Crosslin planned to spend at least $350,000 on his
"hippie-friendly" bed-and-breakfast. A lover of music, Crosslin had allowed
bands to stay the night in the finished rooms of the house.
He was just as generous with his campground, allowing people to stay there
for free if they pitched in with some of the work.
DeWeese said Crosslin bought the campground about 15 years ago largely so
he could have a place for his family and friends to get together. DeWeese
said children looked forward to the Easter egg hunts, hayrides and
Halloween parties Crosslin regularly staged for the youngsters.
"They loved Uncle Tom," she said.
She denied the notion that her brother was responsible for drug activities
on the campgrounds.
Crosslin stressed that he never bought or sold drugs on his property, and
that anyone caught doing so would be kicked off the farm.
Jeanie Haines, of Vandalia, said her 12-year-old son was a regular visitor
at Crosslin's residence, going there to play with Rohm's 13-year-old boy.
She said her son stayed "many days" at the farm house and she had never
seen any indication he had been influenced by drugs.
Although she did observe people at campground festivals smoking marijuana,
she said Crosslin, a supporter of legalization of the drug, had rules for
"He wouldn't allow it in front of kids," she said.
"To him, it was a personal freedom thing. But he also had expectations
about people. He thought they should have respect for other people's rights."
DeWeese said it was only when authorities removed Rohm's son from the
campgrounds, based on drug charges filed against Rohm and Crosslin in May,
that her brother's anger started to build.
"They came in and ripped his home apart. They took (Rohm's) son away," she
Still, Crosslin's aunt, Josephine Vanitta, of Smithville, Tenn., said she
found it hard to believe Crosslin intended to cause anyone harm.
"I don't believe Tom meant to kill anyone. He knew he was going to go to
the pen and that was his only way out," she said.
Crosslin's uncle, George Coldwell, of Elkhart, said things seemed to be
going well for Crosslin until recently.
"I saw Tom a couple weeks ago, and he was just ... joking and laughing," he
said. "He said it was going real good and he had plans to extend the farm
... (and) have more activities."
David Watts, of Elkhart, said he was a friend of Crosslin and had worked
for him. He remembered that Crosslin would take money from his farm and buy
Christmas presents for children in the community. He'd also use farm
equipment to pick up discarded washers and dryers from creeks and ditches,
to improve the appearance of the area.
As for himself, Watts said he helped build the structures at Rainbow Farm.
"I can build new buildings, but I can't build a new friend," he said.
Tribune staff writer Jim Meenan contributed to this report.
As teen, Rohm left wife to move in with Crosslin
Son remained his top priority, mother says
September 6, 2001
BY TAMARA AUDI
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
It was a love story, of sorts.
Boy meets older girl. Boy marries her. They have a child. Boy meets older
man. Older girl loses boy to older man.
The boy at the center was Rolland (Rollie) Rohm, and before he became the
second man killed at Rainbow Farm during a standoff with authorities, he
was a young man caught between the woman he married and the man he loved.
Rohm was 17 when he married Leslie Pletcher. She was 25. They met in
Elkhart, Ind., where Pletcher was renting an apartment through Rohm's
stepmother. She and the quiet, kind teenager took to each other immediately.
"He was sweet," Pletcher said Wednesday. "We wasn't into drugs or alcohol."
Later, Rohm would help run a farm and campsite that advocated marijuana use
and hosted pot festivals. But back then, Pletcher said, he was a sweet kid
who worked at a restaurant and wanted to marry her when she told him she
was pregnant with their son.
Her mother protested and refused to help pay for the wedding. Her friends
told her Rohm was too young. Others accused her of robbing the cradle, she
said. But Rohm and Pletcher ignored them. "If you love a person, age don't
matter. I loved him," Pletcher said.
But a few months into their marriage, and shortly after their baby was born
in 1989, a stranger showed up at Pletcher's door. It was Grover (Tom)
Crosslin, the man who would later die with Rohm in the standoff. Crosslin
told Pletcher something that shocked her: He was her husband's lover.
Pletcher didn't believe him. But when she later confronted Rohm, he told
her it was true. Pletcher said she felt her world falling apart. After
barely three months of marriage, she and Rohm separated. They divorced two
years later. Pletcher said Rohm moved in with Crosslin, who was living in
Elkhart. Rohm regularly visited his son, whose name is being withheld
because he's a minor.
"I never wanted to deny him a relationship with his son. He loved being a
dad," said Pletcher. When their son was 4, Rohm petitioned the court for
custody and won. Pletcher's mother, Evelyn Rogers, said that at the time
the boy was better off with his father while Pletcher worked toward a more
So the boy was largely raised by Rohm and Crosslin at Rainbow Farm.
Crosslin was the strict one, family members said, punishing the boy by
taking the computer away if he disobeyed. Everyone from Rohm's ex-wife, to
ex-mother-in-law, to his lawyer and his father described him as a gentle
follower who often deferred to the will of others, especially Crosslin. In
recent years, Pletcher said she tried to gain back full custody of their child.
The last time Pletcher saw Rohm was at a court hearing in June. He had lost
their son to a foster home after a state investigator discovered marijuana
growing in Rohm's house, and he was distraught. He cried and hugged her.
The judge ordered him to stay away from Crosslin and he agreed, she said.
Rohm would do anything for his son, she said. What she says she knows now
is that out of everyone in his life, including her and Crosslin, "he loved
his son most."
Contact TAMARA AUDI at 313-222-6582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 5, 2001
Son's standoff status shocking
James Peoples found out on TV that his son, Brandon, was at Rainbow Farm
By LOU MUMFORD
Tribune Staff Writer
VANDALIA -- James Peoples was watching television Monday night when he
heard Cass County Sheriff Joe Underwood say that Peoples' son, Brandon, had
suffered injuries at the Rainbow Farm Campground.
He instantly sat up in his chair and wondered if he had heard correctly.
"It was like, 'What (did he say)?' " he said.
He said that was the first time he knew his 18-year-old son had been at the
campground, where a standoff by property owner Tom Crosslin, 46, and
Crosslin's roommate, Rolland Rohm, 28, ended Tuesday with the shooting
death of Rohm.
Rohm's death occurred just hours after Crosslin, too, was shot and killed
by authorities. Police said both men had pointed rifles at law enforcement
officials, Crosslin at an FBI agent and Rohm at a Michigan State trooper,
before they were killed.
Underwood said Crosslin had left the farmhouse in a huff after negotiations
for his surrender broke down. The sheriff said Crosslin carried the rifle
as he walked along the perimeter of the farm, accompanied by Brandon Peoples.
Peoples received minor injuries, Underwood said, even though he apparently
wasn't shot. At a press conference Tuesday, the sheriff said Peoples wasn't
in custody and authorities hadn't yet decided whether he'd be charged in
connection with the standoff.
James Peoples said he was "shocked" when he learned Brandon was at the
farm, in part because the standoff began Friday when Crosslin allegedly
torched the first of several buildings on the property. The elder Peoples
said he knew Brandon couldn't have been at the farm all four days because
he had borrowed his father's Jeep and returned it on Saturday.
James Peoples said he immediately called the sheriff's department but was
told Brandon wasn't there. He said he then called the residence where
Brandon has been staying recently and was told his son was taking a shower.
When his son called back a few minutes later, the conversation was brief.
"He said he was OK. He said he had been wounded in the neck and shoulder
but he couldn't talk about it," he said.
Attempts to talk to Brandon Tuesday were unsuccessful. A woman at the house
where he has been staying said police had asked him not to discuss the
situation at the campground.
However, she said Brandon had gone to the farm Monday, in an apparent
attempt to support Crosslin and Rohm.
The woman, who asked that she not be identified, said Brandon had walked to
the campground through two and a half miles of woods, approaching it from
the north or from behind the farmhouse.
"Brandon was close to Tom and Rollie. I don't know why he went out there,
except for support," she said. "We tried to talk him out of it."
James Peoples said Brandon was a friend of Crosslin, having been at the
farm and campground on a number of occasions to cut the grass. He said
Brandon had moved out of his parents' house only two months ago, so he
could live with a friend in a residence behind the Rainbow Farm Campground.
The elder Peoples said Brandon had worked at the McDonald's in Cassopolis
until about two weeks ago. He said he dropped out of Ross Beatty High
School a year ago but has been attending adult education classes to get his
He said Brandon had borrowed his Jeep so he could look for another job.
Although he questioned the thinking of his son in going to the farmhouse,
he said Brandon would have had no trouble walking through the woods to
"I know I wouldn't have been there," he said.
He said he would have expected, too, that police would have called to
inform him of his son's involvement.
"It could have been handled better," he said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford:
September 5, 2001
Lawyer expected different outcome
By JIM MEENAN
Tribune Staff Writer
VANDALIA ---- Dori Leo thought she would see Tom Crosslin in court Friday
"I expected him to show because we had talked to him and we had prepared
for the court hearing together," she said of Crosslin.
"As a matter of fact, I was looking forward to seeing him and getting some
paperwork that I had requested he bring to the courthouse with him."
Crosslin, 46, and Rolland Rohm, 28, were due in Cass County Circuit Court
before Judge Michael Dodge on Friday for a show-cause portion of a hearing.
Cass County authorities sought to get a motion granted to revoke Crosslin's
$150,000 bond and Rohm's $25,000 bond because of a festival that was staged
at the farm and campground Aug. 17 and Aug. 18, when both were observed
The meeting, of course, never took place between the attorney and her
clients. When Leo, an attorney for Vlachos and Vlachos of Kalamazoo,
arrived Friday, she was met with officials from the Sheriff's Department,
who asked to meet her in private.
"I was surprised to hear what was going on at Rainbow Farm at that time,"
The events of the past four days have not totally surprised her, though.
But Tuesday's events did.
"I was horrified," Leo said from the field located a mile or so away from
Rainbow Farm Campground, only hours after she had learned that her client,
Rohm, had been killed by the Michigan State Police Emergency Support Team
member in the early morning hours of Tuesday.
"I did not expect Rollie to be shot to death. I expected him to want to see
his son. I expected him to surrender. And then I expected the ranting and
raving that they were wronged by the government."
Tom Crosslin's situation was different.
"He was very agitated, extremely agitated about the situation and he was
illogical at times," she said. "And I just believed that he had that
rebellious rebel attitude and that he wanted to get the message out that he
is convinced that we are surrounded by bad government."
Campers suspected something was going to happen when Crosslin cleared
Rainbow Farm last Wednesday, said Vanessa Hunkler, 18, who had been camping
there since Aug. 22.
"He got the people and everything out of the site," the Quincy, Ill.,
resident said. "People got everything out of the store. He said, 'Go in and
help yourself.' ... He said he was just closing it down." He helped some
campers get back home by buying them bus tickets, she said.
Hunkler said Crosslin seemed defeated when he cleared the campground. "He
was tired of fighting," she said. He was vague about the reason for his
actions, she said.
Rohm's state of mind was different, Leo believed. He also wanted to get a
message out about bad government during her conversations with her via
walkie-talkies for one half hour before midnight Monday.
"When I appealed to him to make wise decisions for his son, he said that he
was making positive decisions for his son," she said. "That in order to
make this world better and get rid of bad government, that he had to take a
stand. He wanted that message known."
But she was very hopeful of a much different ending for him than that of
his close friend.
"I am surprised the situation with Rollie did not come to a peaceful
ending," she said. "He seemed scared. He did not have the revolutionary
demeanor that I encountered when I talked to Tom Crosslin when I tried to
get him to come out.
"He was very interested in finding out the consequences of things that have
happened thus far and what would happen in a court of law.
"He was very concerned about his court date when he came out which led me
to me believe that he had a more peaceful solution in mind.
"He was concerned about the charges and what the potential of the charges
"That would lead any reasonable person to conclude that he was going to
come out and face the judge in court."
Staff reporter Christine Cox contributed to this story.
Staff writer Jim Meenan:
Pair saw one escape: Death
Cornered by cops, men on farm feared losing land, freedom
September 6, 2001
BY SHAWN WINDSOR
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
VANDALIA -- He had no power and nothing to eat. He had no place to gohis
farm was surrounded by nearly 100 police, deputies and FBI agents, most of
them hidden in the woods.
On Sunday afternoon Grover (Tom) Crosslin left his stone house on Rainbow
Farm and slipped through the trees. He faced losing his campground to the
state. He faced 20 years in prison for drug and weapons charges. And he'd
already lost his partner's son, whom he helped raise.
On a cell phone a day earlier, he told his lawyer, who was trying to get
him to surrender, that "society consists of bad government. You're going to
be the only one left to tell the story."
He knew he would die, a determined if frustrated martyr in a campaign to
On Wednesday, Dori Leo, the lawyer for Crosslin, 47, and his longtime
partner Rolland Rohm, 28, explained in a kind of suicide-note-by-lawyer why
they decided they had no option of leaving the farm alive and provoked
police into shooting them to death in separate but hauntingly similar
incidents 13 hours apart.
According to the FBI, Crosslin reached a neighbor's house just before 5
p.m. Monday. He broke in, took food and headed back, only to realize he'd
forgotten a coffee pot.
So the owner of the marijuana advocacy campground headed back out. He was
wearing camouflage and carrying a semiautomatic rifle. He'd already set
fire to nine of the 10 buildings on the campsite, including the general
store and coffee shop.
Only his and Rohm's homes weren't ash. As he approached the house, carrying
the coffee pot and gun, he noticed an FBI agent.
He raised his gun.
The agent shot first. Crosslin collapsed into a campfire pit.
The next morning, his partner, Rohm, set fire to the house, walked away,
saw a Michigan State trooper, raised his gun, and was shot the same way.
"I was stunned Rollie didn't make it," said Leo. "I knew what would happen
to Tom after we talked. Tom was the defiant one. But Rollie was scared."
He was also, she said, a follower.
Still, before midnight on Sunday, she talked to Rohm on a cell from inside
an FBI vehicle. The agents were standing outside.
Rohm asked what kind of time he faced.
"When he said that, I thought there was hope," she said.
But it started raining. Hard. The agents climbed back in the truck. She
told Rohm they had company. And they'd talk in the morning.
"I remember lightning lit up the whole camp, and that was the first time I
could see how many police were there," she said.
Then it grew dark.
On Wednesday, Cass County Sheriff's deputies, FBI agents and lab scene
specialists, state fire investigators and Michigan state troopers picked
through the rubble and soot, looking for clues. It was an odd vista, the
bucolic, rolling, 34-acre campground full of charred buildings and
vehicles, including a VW Bug.
"We made no effort to provoke," said John Bell, special agent in charge of
Bell's team got involved when shots were fired at aircraft on Friday and
Saturday. He'd been there since Sunday afternoon. His cleanup team found
100 shell casings, a pipe bomb that burned but didn't explode, revolvers
and long guns. They found no evidence of marijuana on the property. In May,
police had found plants growing in the basement under artificial light.
Bell said they expected to be out of Rainbow late today.
"We want to find everything out we can about what happened," he said.
Two FBI agents shot at Crosslin, he said, and both are still working. The
two state troopers who fired at Rohm are on administrative leave.
Both agencies are following their own protocol after an officer is involved
in a shooting.
Officials involved and others say the shootings were reasonable but
unfortunate, but others say their deaths are an example of a government
that infringes on the rights of people.
"This has obviously shaken us a bit. People are horrified," said Keith
Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws, a Washington, D.C.-based group fighting to legalize pot. "I
think there is a growing awareness that in some parts of the country,
offenses considered minor in most of the country are potentially lethal.
Now we know one of those places is rural Michigan."
Leo, a former Cook County, Ill., prosecutor who talked in her Kalamazoo law
office, wondered Wednesday why her clients had to die.
"Why can't we maim them? Or tranquilize them?" she asked.
Leo said she asked the Sheriff's Department on Friday afternoon to back off
in the hopes Crosslin and Rohm would surrender, a warrant had been issued
that day because the two men failed to appear in court on drugs and weapons
charges. Crosslin allegedly sponsored a concert at the campground last
month in violation of the conditions of his bond.
Leo said the sheriff was concerned about public safety.
"Maybe they were justified," she said. "But it's too bad it had to end this
Contact SHAWN WINDSOR at 313-222-6487 or email@example.com.
Thursday, September 6, 2001
Justice to probe farm shootings
The Associated Press
VANDALIA (AP) -- The Justice Department will investigate the fatal
shootings of two men by authorities during a five-day standoff at a
campground for marijuana advocates.
An FBI agent shot Rainbow Farm owner Tom Crosslin on Monday after
authorities say he pointed a gun at the agent, one of a number of
law-enforcement officers surrounding the campground.
Police said Crosslin's roommate, Rolland Rohm, was shot Tuesday as he left
a burning building on the property and aimed a gun at a state police
officer. Authorities have not said who fired the fatal shot at Rohm.
The federal review is focusing on a second shot allegedly fired at Crosslin
by an FBI special agent, said Mark Courtade, head of the criminal division
of the U.S attorney's office in Grand Rapids. The agent was questioned by
FBI officials, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.
The bureau withheld the names of agents involved in the shootings, but said
the agents will continue working during the review.
The Rainbow Farm standoff started Friday after Crosslin missed a bond
hearing and was reported to be burning buildings at the campground, which
is the target of civil forfeiture proceedings.
Rainbow Farm hosted two annual pro-marijuana festivals called HempAid and
RoachRoast, according to its Web site.
A court order issued in June prohibited Crosslin from having festivals at
the farm. Police allege he violated the order by holding a gathering Aug.
17-18, which prompted a bond hearing that was scheduled for Friday.
Crosslin was charged with felony possession of a firearm, growing marijuana
and maintaining a drug house.
Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Risko has defended the shootings, and said
Rohm was repeatedly ordered to put down his gun.
"Both subjects pointed firearms at officers, and I don't know what else you
would have officers do," Risko said.
September 7, 2001
Crosslin's dark side shown
By LOU MUMFORD
Tribune Staff Writer
CASSOPOLIS -- Exactly who was Grover T. "Tom" Crosslin, the owner of the
Rainbow Farm Campground who died Monday during a standoff near Vandalia?
Was he the kind, gentle civil libertarian who bought Christmas presents for
children he didn't even know? Or was he the man who hit a woman with a pipe
and condoned illegal drug use on his property?
If the 46-year-old Crosslin had a dark side, then Cass County Prosecutor
Scott Teter detailed it Thursday.
At a news conference at the Edward Lowe Center for the Council on Aging,
Teter painted a picture of a Crosslin who was on occasion violent with his
efforts to decriminalize marijuana use being carried out in all the wrong ways.
"The law is clear. This was not about, and was never about, the
decriminalization of marijuana," Teter said. "You can't ignore laws you
don't agree with."
Teter stopped short of condemning either Crosslin or his Rainbow Farm
Campground roommate, Rolland "Rollie" Rohm, a 28-year-old fatally shot by
authorities Tuesday. And Teter acknowledged Crosslin's generosity within
"I don't mean these are bad people. They made bad choices," Teter said.
The first of Crosslin's bad choices in Cass County occurred April 19, 1995,
when Crosslin used a pipe to assault a woman at the former Joe's Tavern in
Crosslin admitted to a lesser felony assault charge. He was ordered to pay
$3,600 restitution to the woman, serving eight months in jail and three
Two years later, authorities focused on the festivals Crosslin brought to
Rainbow Farm. That focus came after complaints from nearby residents about
problems at a Hemp Fest event staged Memorial Day weekend in 1997.
Informed in March 1999 that his property could be forfeited should problems
persist at subsequent festivals, Crosslin fired back.
In a March 24, 1999, letter, Crosslin said he didn't grow, sell or
distribute marijuana at Rainbow Farm. He said didn't allow weapons either.
"Our friends at the Michigan Militia have their ideas how we should handle
your threats, but as I said, we are pursuing a peaceful change to the laws
that are now threatening our communities (and my own family) more than
ever. ...," Crosslin wrote.
"I have discussed this with my family and we are all prepared to die on
this land before we allow it to be stolen from us."
Crosslin, an individual rights activist who painted an Elkhart property he
owned neon hues last year to publicly complain about municipal code
enforcement, was one who could be "very" defiant, said Dori Leo, his
Defiance by the former truck driver and home remodeler brought police
investigation onto his property at 59896 Pemberton Road.
The Hemp Fest 1997 complaints led to undercover operations by the Michigan
State Police-affiliated Southwest Enforcement Team at Rainbow Farm.
Undercover officers found they were able to purchase a wide variety of
illegal drugs marijuana, LSD, hashish, psilocybin mushrooms,
methamphetamines and unprescribed prescription drugs.
While neither Crosslin nor Rohm was ever observed personally selling the
drugs, Crosslin was observed smoking marijuana April 21 at Rainbow Farm.
That was also the day 17-year-old Konrad Joseph Hornack of Eau Claire died
in a Berrien County traffic accident after attending Rainbow Farm's 420
Hornack's death seemingly verified concerns that officials from high
schools as distant as Buchanan had regarding festival fliers turning up on
But instead of illegal drug use, it was a report from a confidential
informant that sent authorities to the farm in May, armed with a search
warrant sought by the Michigan attorney general for the Michigan Department
The police informant had gotten a job at The Joint, a store at the
campground. She reported she and other employees were paid in cash, with no
reporting of their earnings.
The May search revealed a marijuana-growing operation in the farmhouse
basement as well as three loaded firearms. A later search resulted in the
seizure of 301 marijuana plants and three loaded guns.
Those discoveries led to the May 21 arrest of Crosslin and Rohm on illegal
drug and firearms charges. The arrests led to the removal of Rohm's
13-year-old son, Robert.
A temporary injunction issued May 9 by Cass County Circuit Judge Michael
Dodge stipulated that no more festivals be staged. But two such events were
conducted at Rainbow Farm in July and August and plans were on for another
Labor Day weekend, Teter and Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood said.
The Labor Day festival plans were scrubbed, however, after Cass County
authorities sought to rescind bonds of $150,000 for Crosslin and $25,000
for Rohm and jail them.
Neither Crosslin or Rohm showed up for their Cass Circuit Court bond
revocation hearing last Friday. But an hour before that, buildings were set
ablaze and the standoff began at Rainbow Farm.
It was punctuated that day by Crosslin's shooting at a WNDU-TV, Channel 16,
helicopter flying in to check out the fires. With another shooting at
aircraft on Saturday, the FBI entered the fray Sunday and brought federal
charges against Crosslin on Monday.
About 100 officers from Michigan State Police, the Cass County Sheriff's
Department and the FBI surrounded the 34-acre campground by Sunday.
That day, Crosslin's attorney, Leo, tried to get him and Rohm to surrender.
But surrender never came.
Crosslin and Rohm died in similar circumstances, each with a gun in his hand.
An 18-year-old from rural Vandalia, Brandon Peoples, survived the siege
with minor injuries suffered when Crosslin died.
Crosslin's funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Walley-Mills-Zimmerman
Funeral Home & Crematory in Elkhart. Arrangements for Rohm are still pending.
Tribune staff writers Ashley Lowery, Christine Cox and Rick Martinez
contributed to this report.
September 7, 2001
Rohm's stepfather forgiving, but he's not forgetting
By LOU MUMFORD
Tribune Staff Writer
CASSOPOLIS -- John Livermore says he's able to forgive authorities after
the death of his stepson.
But he won't forget the circumstances of the Tuesday morning death of
Rolland Rohm, 28, at Rainbow Farm Campground near Vandalia.
"I've found it in my heart to forgive you ... but I believe it was an
outright killing ... " Livermore told Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter at
a news conference Thursday in the Edward Lowe Center for the Cass County
Council on Aging.
A resident of Rogersville, Tenn., Livermore said that he and his wife,
Gerry, plan to hire someone to conduct "a professional investigation" into
the shooting death of Rohm.
They'll decide after the investigation is completed whether to take legal
action, Livermore said.
Rohm's death at 6:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday ended a five-day police standoff at
the farm and campground at 59896 Pemberton Road.
It began last Friday when Grover T. "Tom" Crosslin, Rainbow Farm's
46-year-old owner, set fire to buildings on the property. That happened
about an hour before he had a hearing on revoking his $150,000 bond for
felony and misdemeanor charges for illegal drugs and firearms following his
May arrest at Rainbow Farm.
Cass County Sheriff Joseph Underwood said an anonymous telephone caller
told them the fires had been deliberately set to lure authorities to the
property for an ambush.
Crosslin was shot to death Monday afternoon by one or more FBI agents,
after he allegedly left the house and aimed a rifle at one of the agents.
Early Tuesday, Rohm set fire to the farmhouse and exited the building,
holding a weapon of his own. Police said he was shot after he, too, aimed a
gun at police officers.
Livermore is upset that authorities didn't notify Rohm that he and his wife
were in the process of driving to Vandalia from Rogersville. Had Rohm known
that was the case, Livermore said he might not have died as he did.
Livermore also takes issue with law enforcement claims that Crosslin and
Rohm intentionally burned buildings on the property.
"When it's gone, evidence is destroyed," Livermore said. "I can't believe
the house was burned the way the FBI said it was."
He said he and his wife were angry, too, that they hadn't been able to
visit their 13-year-old grandson. The son of Rolland Rohm was removed from
the farm and campground and placed in foster care only a few weeks before
Friends and family members of Rohm and Crosslin said that action may have
pushed the two over the edge.
"As painful for us as the death of our son is the fact we haven't been able
to see our grandson," Livermore said. "We have the right to see our grandson."
The Livermores, who drove 12 hours from their Tennessee home to talk to
their son, are seeking guardianship of their 13-year-old grandson, Robert.
The Michigan Family Independence Agency took the boy after Rohm and
Crosslin were arrested on multiple drug charges in May.
Dori Leo, of the Kalamazoo-based law firm Vlachos and Vlachos, said that
her colleague Nicholas Vlachos will represent the Livermores as they seek
guardianship of Robert.
Leo pointed out that the couple are the child's closest relatives. That,
combined with showing that Robert would be in a positive home environment,
should give the Livermores a strong case, she said.
While the Livermores feel they have a strong case to get their grandson
back, they feel that Cass County authorities' case against Rainbow Farm
isn't strong at all.
Although Teter showed a videotape filmed by an undercover police officer
that showed festival visitors using illegal drugs, Livermore said the
activity might not have been as widespread as indicated.
"I've been up there a dozen times (for festivals), and I've never seen drug
use on the property," he said. "There were what, maybe 4,000 people there?
And only a few were shown using drugs.
"This was like any other campground. They tried to take his (Crosslin's)
livelihood away, his farm. People were trying to make a statement."
Despite his anger over the circumstances of his stepson's death, he said he
knew he had to forgive Teter and other law enforcement officials.
"I've got to forgive him in my heart or I'm as bad as they are," he said.
Tribune Staff Writer Ashley Lowery contributed to this report.
Staff writer Lou Mumford:
September 7, 2001
Mixed feelings on Rainbow Farm, Crosslin
Mum's the word
By LOU MUMFORD
VANDALIA -- Until last weekend, there were people all across the country
who had never heard of Vandalia.
Certainly, its size doesn't make it stand out. Only a few hundred people
live here. If it's known for anything, it's its rich history stemming from
the period when slaves would take shelter in various hideouts in the
village in the course of their pursuit of freedom.
Some might go so far as to connect the Underground Railroad with Grover T.
"Tom" Crosslin's campaign for individual freedom.
Indeed, Crosslin, the owner of the Rainbow Farm Campground who died this
week along with roommate Rolland Rohm, was the owner of a historic home
that was once a stop on the slaves' route to freedom.
Crosslin's death, and that of Rohm, no doubt was tragic. Authorities have
said both pointed rifles at
law enforcement officials before they were shot to death, ending a standoff
at the campground that began a week ago.
Did they die as heroes or villains? It depends on the point of view, and
how people choose to remember them.
For friends and family members, they two will perhaps be remembered for the
outings and festivals they staged on the campgrounds. Yes, there apparently
was illegal drug use at the festivals, as authorities have said, but
Crosslin may have chosen to overlook it because of his strong belief that
people should be allowed to do as they want, so long as they aren't hurting
Law enforcement officials, of course, have a different view. To them,
Crosslin crossed the line when he took up a weapon, perhaps to protect his
investment in a "marijuana grow" operation he allegedly had hidden in the
basement of his farm house. It didn't help, either, when he chose to
continue campground festivals that were specifically prohibited as a
condition of his $150,000 bond.
The bond stemmed from his arrest on drug charges, which were filed after
the marijuana plants allegedly were discovered in his basement.
A sampling of the views of a few village residents on Thursday revealed
they, too, fit into one of the two camps, siding either with law
enforcement or those closest to Crosslin and Rohm.
If there was a universal hope, it was that the events of the past week
won't reflect poorly on the village.
"I don't think it will," said Raymon Neal, a mother of three. "The thing is
that nobody had really complained about the Rainbow Farm.
It wasn't a big deal. I mean, nobody was getting robbed or anything."
She said she had never met either Crosslin or Rohm, yet she felt sad about
the way they died.
Walter Lee, 27, seemed to concur.
"I don't think they should have killed them," he said. "There were multiple
shots. To me, that shows they tried to kill them."
But anyone who may have gotten the impression Vandalia is a haven for drug
users would be sadly mistaken, he said.
"There are a lot of people here who don't drink, don't smoke (marijuana),
don't do any of that stuff," he said. "What people don't realize is that
people from down south and everywhere else ... would go to that campground."
One man, spotted while he sat in a lawn chair and chatted with a friend in
the friend's yard, said he really didn't care what took place at the
campground. His friend, however, said authorities were correct to attempt
to shut it down.
An 81-year-old woman who said she lives at nearby Donnell Lake said she
can't blame authorities if they fired on Crosslin and Rohm to protect
themselves. The only surprise, she said, is that authorities didn't move in
"People that live around here knew it would be wiped out eventually," said
the woman, who asked that she not be identified. "I guess it took a long
while to get evidence on it to get rid of it."
As for the image people might have had of Vandalia during the standoff, she
said she doesn't expect any lingering impact.
"In a couple of days, everyone will forget about it," she said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford:
September 7, 2001
Authorities end watch on Rainbow Farm
Property back in hands of family
By ASHLEY LOWERY and CHRISTINE COX
Tribune Staff Writer
VANDALIA -- The land on which Grover T. "Tom" Crosslin and Rolland Rohm
staged a standoff with police,
and, ultimately, met their deaths, was in the possession of the men's
Police and federal agents left the property around 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday
after concluding their forensic investigation of the 34-acre Rainbow Farm.
Crosslin, 46, was shot and killed by two FBI agents on Monday afternoon;
28-year-old Rohm was shot by Michigan State Police troopers the following
Jeff Schifler of Auburn Hills, Mich., a close friend of Crosslin and Rohm,
was standing guard at Rainbow Farm on Thursday afternoon.
He said the Crosslin family wasn't yet prepared to allow the pair's
supporters to wander unescorted onto the 59896 Pemberton Road property.
"It's a war zone out here," Schifler said, gesturing toward the burned- out
buildings on the property.
Schifler said a few people stopped by the farm with cameras, trying to make
a pilgrimage to the site where the two men spent their final days.
At the foot of a lawn jockey in front of the men's home were two red roses.
Schifler tried to accommodate the trickle of well-wishers while monitoring
Most supporters of Crosslin, Rohm and the Rainbow Farm, however, remained
camped out on the corner of Michigan 60 and White Temple Road just east of
Vandalia and a couple of miles from the farm.
Many continued to express anger and sadness Thursday afternoon.
Crosslin's sister, Shirley DeWeese of Elkhart, was among the dozen or so
people at the roadside Thursday.
"They murdered him," DeWeese said as she choked back tears.
Signs indicated that supporters shared Deweese's take on the deaths of
Crosslin and Rohm.
One listed the Rainbow Farm standoff among other civilian deaths at the
hands of federal agents, including the raid of the Branch Davidian compound
in Waco, Tex., in 1993 and the deaths of Vicki and Sammy Weaver in Ruby
Ridge, Idaho, in 1992.
In spite of the anger the supporters feel toward federal and local
government officials, DeWeese emphasized that the roadside supporters do
not support violence.
"We want peace," she said. 'We want to see this settled legally. And God's
going to give us our wishes, I know He is."
One supporter who allegedly did not act peacefully was arrested Wednesday.
The Cass County Sheriff's Department arrested one man on charges of
disorderly conduct in the protester staging area, Sheriff Joseph Underwood
Brian McCullough, 38, of Gilbertsville, Ky., later posted $100 bond and was
released, his wife, Cher Ford-McCullough, said. The husband and wife had
driven to the site earlier Wednesday to join the other Crosslin supporters,
No other arrests related to the Rainbow Farm standoff had been made,
Just east of the camp site, Crosslin's historical home at the intersection
of Michigan 60 and Calvin Center Road, a former Underground Railroad site,
appeared vacated Thursday afternoon.
Police executed a search warrant at the home on Tuesday, but would not say
much about what they found there, state police Detective Lt. Michael Brown
said Thursday. The three-hour raid was conducted by five state police
members of the Southwest Enforcement Team (SWET).
The team was looking for "things that would indicate prior planning" of the
standoff, Brown said. The team turned over some of the evidence from the
house to the FBI.
The team did not seize any drugs from the property, although there were
"indications of drugs" throughout the house.
The house, like Rainbow Farm, has been turned over to the family,
Staff writer Ashley Lowery:
Staff writer Christine Cox:
Rainbow Farms standoff sparks talk, opinions
By PEGGY TRYTKO
Niles Daily Star
DOWAGIAC -- Tragedy struck the small town of Vandalia when two men were
shot and killed in a four-day standoff with police.
Grover Thomas Crosslin, 46, was shot by an FBI agent Monday afternoon and
his roommate, Rolland Rohm, 28, was shot by a Michigan State trooper
Tuesday morning at Crosslin's Rainbow Farm campground. It began last
Friday when Cass County law enforcement officers responded to reports of
fires on the campground east of Vandalia on M-60. An anonymous call to
police warned the fires were set to ambush officers.
Rainbow Farm was well known for staging festivals where drugs where
exchanged and used. Crosslin held Hemp Fest every Memorial Day weekend and
Roach Roast on Labor Day weekends.
Authorities searched the campground in May and seized 300 marijuana plants
and three loaded firearms and arrested Crosslin and Rohm on drug and
weapons charges. Rohm's 13-year-old son was removed from the property and
placed into foster care.
In June, Cass County Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge issued an order
prohibiting Croisslin from holding festivals until his trial, scheduled
February 26, 2002.
Crosslin allegedly violated the terms of the order when he held a festival
at Rainbow Farm Aug. 17 and 18, leading to hearings that were scheduled
last Friday to revoke Crosslin's $150,000 bond and Rohm's $25,000
bond. Neither appeared in court Friday.
Cass County Sheriff's deputies who responded last Friday to the scene where
not allowed on the grounds and found themselves in a standoff. Attempts to
negotiate with Crosslin through a third party were unsuccessful. On Monday
afternoon, Crosslin, carrying a rifle and accompanied by Brandon James
Peoples, allegedly approached an area where an FBI observer was
stationed. Upon seeing the FBI observer, authorities said Crosslin raised
his weapon to shoulder height and pointed it directly at the agent. The FBI
agent fired one round and fatally wounded Crosslin.
Authorities established negotiations with Rohm that continued through the
night. Rohn was killed the next morning after authorities saw a glow in the
upstairs of the farmhouse. At approximatley 6:30 p.m., Rohm was observed
leaving the residence and walking out into the yard with a long gun. After
several orders to put the weapon down, Rohm reportedly pointed the weapon
at a Michigan State policeman and was fatally shot.
The violent end to what was hopefully going to be a peaceful negotiation
prompted questions posed to Dowagiac residents as to what they thought of
the incident and if they thought police handled the situation well.
John Hall, a hot dog vendor on Main Street said he believed officers did
not want a confrontation.
Hall, a former police chaplain said he knows Sheriff Joseph Underwood and
"I know the attitude of the guys. I think they did a good job. I was sick
for them when I heard he got shot because that's not what they wanted."
Crosslin was given every opportunity to give himself up, Hall said. It was
Crosslin who made the aggressive move when he came out with a gun during
negotiations. "It was totally opposite of what he was trying to do. So
that's why we think it was a suicide by cops," Hall said. "He had
everything, why didn't he just come to court? But just seeing the situation
in the news, I knew, and even my son said it was going to end up going
wrong because he's creating his own problems."
Kris Dawkins was out of town when the incident happened, so she said she
doesn't know the details of the standoff at Rainbow Farms in Vandalia but
people at work were talking about the incident.
"Everyone was just really upset about how it was handled," Dawkins said.
Some of her co-workers felt police overreacted when they shot the two, she
"Because I don't have the facts, I don't have the details, I don't know,"
Jerry Ferrari said he got the tail end of the story. It started the day he
left town and ended the day he came back, he said, and what he knew about
it, he read on the internet. "I really didn't follow it that closely," he
said. "I really don't have a negative or positive on it. Probably a little
bit of both sides."
Ferrari said in previous standoffs with police in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and
Waco, Texas, "it seems like police like to use force."
"I think they jump the gun a lot of times," he said, adding that he didn't
know what the situation at Rainbow Farm was and that it was not a good
thing for Crosslin and Rohm to have pointed guns at police.
Sally and Don Heffington said they followed the story a little bit on the news.
"I don't really know all the facts, just a lot of hearsay" Don Heffington
said. "The radio says one thing, the paper says another."
"I don't think they needed to kill him," Sally Heffington said. "They
could have shot him in the legs or something," Don said.
The two also said police could have waited Crosslin out or used tear gas to
end the situation.
Margaret Farmer said she heard about the standoff through the grapevine and
saw it on the news Friday night. She said she knew someone had shot at a
helicopter, but didn't know there was a standoff.
"Nobody can prove cops could have handled it differently." she said when
asked if she thought police handled the situation well.
"I couldn't handle it no different and you couldn't handle it no different
than what they could," she said. In that situation something was bound to
happen, she said. "I wouldn't know what to do."
No innocent bystanders where hit and no police got hurt, she said.
"That's their job. They should know what they're doing."
Darin Hackett said shooting at a helicopter and plane were actions that
"The minute he raised his gun and shot at a news chopper and at police
that's a threat right there," Hackett said. "They could have had something
to lure cops in there," he said, "so I think they did do it fair sniping
them off, if they did snipe them off." Hackett just got out of the Navy
after four years and is now in the National Guard. He was on call during
the standoff, he said. When he went to the Cass County jail to put a resume
in for corrections officer, there were a lot of FBI agents there, he
said. Kyle Belew, owner of the Wounded Minnow Saloon, said he doesn't
advocate the legalization of pot.
"I think that actually in that whole arena, they set the whole thing back
by the choices they made," Belew said. "I think the guy was unstable to
begin with and I think the FBI did pretty much the right thing. They gave
him his chances. He shot at a helicopter. If he didn't have a gun, he
wouldn't have been shot. When it comes to that point..."
Belew thinks the two men chose to be martyrs for the cause of legalizing
"Unfortunately, there's a 13-year-old boy involved in that whole thing."
"I might sound harsh, but they had their choices. They made their choices.
The FBI had to do what they had to do." Belew also expressed concern that
in highlighting the events of the standoff, local media did not portray
happenings at the farm that led up to the incident.
"The bad thing is there were two people who were shot," he said.
"They both received bullets, and really, for what? In a way, I'm torn. Did
they need to be shot? I actually think those guys probably were not violent
people. But they chose to walk out of that house with a gun and actually
Wounded Minnow cook Mike Mortimore recounted a news story he read about the
frame of mind an officer would be in if a rifle were aimed at him or her.
"I think they handled like they could," he said. "Everybody can speculate
about what happened," Mortimore said, but said people need to think about
it from the police's point of view. "Do they want to do something like
that? Would they come down to small town America and draw that kind of
attention? "I think they did everything they could. Remember he's the one
who shot at the NewsCenter 16 chopper."
Mortimore supports the legalization of marijuana, saying if it is regulated
and taxed it "could help a lot of our country's problems." He has friends
who have gone to Rainbow Farm, he said, but never went there himself.
"I always thought it was a bad idea to go out there," he said. Mortimore
said he thinks the incident hurt the cause of legalizing drugs.
"He could have chosen a better way than to get busted with 300 plants,"
Belew said. "He just did all the wrong things."
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