On March 10th, in the small town of Middlefield, Ohio, James Gilkerson took a right turn too fast onto the State Route 608. Two local police officers--Erin Thomas and Brandon Savage--were patrolling in their cruiser and saw the turn. They pulled Gilkerson over.
Before they could approach his car, he stepped out with an AK-47 holding 40 rounds and opened fire on the officers. Thomas was wounded. The two officers returned fire, hitting Gilkerson. He doubled over in pain and yelled, "kill me!" He stood back up, raised his AK-47 back towards the officers, and started firing again. The officers again returned fire, killing him.
The dashboard camera ran the entire time, and the audio was recorded as well. This footage is now available, though it is extremely graphic, and I wouldn't recommend watching it.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer released a slide show of items found in Gilkerson's car. In addition to many more high-capacity magazines, he also had literature on corpse disposal, ammunition and explosive manufacturing, a book on homemade weaponry, a book on constructing suppressors, a copy of "Invisible Resistance to Tyranny" (which, according to its Amazon page, promises to teach readers "the many paths of invisible resistance to tyranny - intelligence collection and dissemination, propaganda, support for active operations and, if it should ever come down to it, direct operations against a totalitarian regime"), and a couple of training manuals in gunfighting.
It was one of those last items that stood out to me as I looked through the slides. Specifically, this one:
I noticed, as I skimmed past it, the logo on the bottom-right corner.
Tactical Response is the weapons training company run by James Yeager. Mr. Yeager, you might recall, made headlines in January for a web video where he promised to "start killing people" if President Obama pursued tougher gun control:
"James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, claimed in a video posted on YouTube and Facebook that he would "start killing people" if President Barack Obama decides to take executive action to pass further gun control policies, Raw Story reports.
In a frenetic address to the camera, Yeager puts a call out to other gun rights advocates to "load your damn mags" and "get ready to fight" in what he claims will turn into a "civil war" if gun control measures in the country get any stricter."
Transcript: "Fuck that. I'm telling you, if that happens, it's going to spark a civil war and I'll be glad to fire the first shot. I'm not putting up with it. You shouldn't put up with it. And I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you're going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle's clean, pack a backpack with some food in it, and get ready to fight. I am not fucking putting up with this. I am not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. (yelling) I am not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people."
Mr. Yeager's permit to carry a concealed weapon was temporarily suspended after that video, but was returned to him last month.
The course book that Gilkerson had with him was for a two-day Tactical Response training program called "Fighting Rifle." Here's the course description from their website:
You know how to shoot your rifle or subgun now let us teach you how to FIGHT with it! This course is far more advanced than any other rifle course you can attend (with the exception of our advanced course) and covers trajectory, battlesight zero, gear set-up, sling configurations, transitions to pistol, use of cover and concealment, practical ready and firing positions, close- and medium-range snap shooting, weapons handling, urban applications, team drills, firing while moving, multiple targets, plus the tactics required to employ this potent tool in combat. Every student leaves this class with empty mags, a red hot rifle, and a smile from ear to ear! This is one of our most popular courses.
This class is great for nearly any magazine fed rifle or subgun and any traditional military style rifle. We will show you how to run your MP5, AR, AK, RPK, FAL, M1A, G3, VZ-58 or whatever weapon you have!
To my knowledge, Tactical Response hasn't made any statements about the Middlefield shooting, not even to comment on the attacker's form and technique. And just because he had what appears to be materials from this course doesn't mean he necessarily received training--I'm confident he could have picked it up from the same source as the other literature in his car, which I assume probably came from a vendor at a gun show or a table at an extremist right-wing rally--but I think it's worth looking into, especially as the course is regularly taught in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In January, the CEO of this company says he wants "patriots" to "load your damn mags, make sure your rifle's clean...and get ready to fight," because he's ready to "start killing people." In March, someone with his company's training materials from a course on how to better kill people using assault weapons opens fire on police officers with an AK-47 loaded with a high-capacity magazine.
Say what you will, it's a uniquely American story.