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Lawmen Comb Ozarks for Neo-Nazi Wanted in Trooper's Death : Massive Hunt for Murder Suspect Produces Few Clues

April 18, 1985|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | Times Staff Writer

BRANSON, Mo. — Eddie Watkins, like more than 125 other law enforcement officials scouring this rugged Ozark Mountain terrain, was bone-weary and frustrated Wednesday as the search went on through the hot afternoon.

The small army of law officers was looking for David C. Tate, 22, a neo-Nazi survivalist member of a group called The Order, sought for the killing of a Missouri patrolman Monday and by federal officials in Seattle on other charges.

The round-the-clock vigil, including the use of four National Guard combat helicopters, had turned up little, but Watkins, the police chief of the tiny nearby community called Rockaway Beach, kept stopping cars at a roadblock, opening the trunk of each one before letting it pass.

The roadblock he was manning was at the spot where Highway Patrolman Jimmie Linegar, 31, had been killed and his partner, Patrolman Allen D. Hines, wounded in the shoot-out with the man identified as Tate.

Area Residents Frightened

Watkins said the two-day manhunt, and the failure to turn up more than a smattering of clues, had frightened people throughout the heavily wooded, mountainous resort region only a few miles from the Arkansas border.

"If this had happened in Los Angeles, people five blocks away wouldn't have cared about it," he said. "Here, people 30 miles away are concerned."

Watkins should know. Before he retired and moved to Missouri last year, he was a lieutenant in the narcotics unit of the Los Angeles Police Department. As the hot afternoon droned on, he said he saw less and less chance of finding Tate, known as a neo-Nazi extremist who was indicted in Seattle Monday--along with 22 others--for a string of crimes in several Western states. Tate was named in racketeering and murder charges.

The manhunt began Monday afternoon after Linegar and Hines, making spot license checks on a side road south of Branson, pulled over a van. The driver, who wore a plaid shirt and jeans, used an automatic rifle to kill Linegar and wound Hines before fleeing into the wooded, brushy hills. Police cordoned off the area and found a lage cache of high-powered weaponry in the van.

Food, Jacket Stolen

The biggest break of the case thus far came Wednesday when a quarry worker reported that a sandwich, a soft drink and a jacket had been stolen from his dump truck the day before. Investigators found tennis shoe tracks around the truck and Lt. Ralph Biele, a highway patrol spokesman, said tests were being run to see if they matched those at the death scene. A reconnaissance team swept into the quarry area after the reported theft, but as nightfall approached, it had found nothing.

These last two days have brought an unease to Branson and the persons who live in the surrounding mountains. Many are retirees and others have summer and weekend homes here. Door-to-door searches of their scattered houses and cabins have been conducted, and as word of the manhunt spread, many began buying guns and ammunition.

Carol Crocker, co-owner of a sporting goods store in Branson, said she had sold 11 rifles and shotguns during the last two days. Normally, she would sell no more than one gun a day, she said.

'Very Restless' Night

"I couldn't begin to tell you how many phone calls I got asking how to go about buying a handgun," she said. "People had a very restless, fearful night and they wanted to do something to make themselves feel safer.

"A lot of our local people are very angry. (Linegar) was a very well-liked officer. People aren't getting out on those lakes. They're scared. They are not relaxed at all."

Crocker said two of her customers were single mothers who came in Wednesday morning. Each bought a 12 gauge shotgun. She said she had to talk them out of buying rifles, arguing that they stood less chance of mistakenly killing someone with a shotgun.

She said also that people in Branson wanted to know what had brought the right-wing extremists to their part of the country.

Others are asking the same question, including Dave Deputy, manager of the Wal-Mart Discount store, which has also had a run on guns and ammunition.

Weapons Inventory

"I just don't know what those people think they are getting ready for," he said, referring to the huge arms cache found in the van that police believe belonged to Tate. The inventory included sub-machine guns, automatic rifles, hand grenades, silencers, sniper rifles, scopes, nitroglycerin and several thousand rounds of ammunition.

Bob Davenport of the Kansas City office of the FBI, said this part of Missouri and Arkansas is a "magnet" for right-wing, neo-Nazi survivalist groups who believe they will have to fight for their existence during the next great world turmoil.

They are drawn to places like the Ozarks by cheap land and a sparse population, as well as the belief that the remote locations would not be a target of attack. One such group, the Covenant of the Sword and Arm of the Lord, is located about 60 miles east of Branson.

But investigators said they had no evidence that Tate was headed for the right-wing camp, known here as CSA. They also said they did not know if others sought in the Seattle indictments were in the area. Besides CSA, Biele said other survivalist camps were located in southern Missouri.

"What we need is a break," said Biele. "We need someone to spot him, to find something that belongs to him. Tate could be in California, having a warm dinner in a clean house. We like to hope not. If he got out of the area, he got out in the first hour. If not, he probably hasn't gotten out."

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