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the Body Politic
Vol. 5, No. 11 - December 1995, Page 14
Copyright © 1995, 1997 by the Body Politic Inc.
Shelley Shannon: A Soldier in The Army of God - Part Iby Anne Bower
The 1983 kidnapping of an Illinois doctor and his wife, 1984 death threats to Supreme Court Justice Blackmun, and a 1985 attempt on his life, have one common factor -- the Army of God, a loosely structured group of domestic terrorists whose mission is to stop abortion.
Since the mid-80s, little had been heard from this shadowy and secretive fraternity, until Shelley Shannon attempted to kill Dr. George Tiller in 1993. During the investigation and after executing a search warrant on her Grants Pass, Oregon home, copies of the manual were dug up on her property. (See article on page 8 for excerpts.) Ms. Shannon was convicted in the attempt to assassinate Dr. Tiller, but based on materials removed from her home and letters she wrote while in prison, the investigation continued, resulting in Ms. Shannon being charged on ten counts of arsons and butyric acid bombings in 1992. She pleaded guilty to all counts summer of 1995.
The sentencing report issued the end of August contained documents illustrating the descent of a woman from dedicated activism to advocating and attempting murder -- all in a religious/political cause, a scene recently played out with the assassination of Yitzak Rabin. By publishing some of Ms. Shannon's writing, the Body Politic is attempting to educate the public about the rationale behind the series of murders and violence from the anti-abortion fringe and warn that these acts of mayhem are not the products of isolated, unbalanced minds. There is a network of men and women in America who advocate and will attempt violence, even to the point of murder, for their cause. These people easily classify as domestic terrorists who should be taken seriously. No matter how silly it may seem to the vast majority of people, whether they are for, or opposed to abortion, these individuals see themselves as soldier in a grand cause, The Army of God.
"I had to know for sure I had God's how, when, and where before I would act. If I was going to spend what's left of my life in prison or die in an explosion, I was at least going to do so in the will of God!"
Shelley Shannon: The C.D. YearsIn the beginning, Shelley Shannon was content to perform civil disobedience with Operation Rescue. According to her own records, she engaged in 35 different actions beginning in June 1988 in Portland at the Lovejoy Surgical Center. Ms. Shannon kept track of her "rescues" and her jail time in a computer file titled Mom's Jail Time Total which, by her count, was 98 days.
However, during 1991 according to the sentencing report, Ms. Shannon was undergoing a transformation from civil disobedience to violence. As she wrote in a document entitled Join the Army,"The biggest hurdle was being willing to even consider that God could indeed require this work of anyone. Christians don't do that kind of thing, do they? but prayer and God cleared that up. Then I realized that I needed to stop the killing too."
She also began to correspond with men and women listed in the Prisoner's of Christ list put out by Gary McCullough. This dialogue convinced her that most rescuerers were not willing to put their convictions into action because they were unwilling to pay the price. Taking inspiration from these arsonists, bombers, and kidnapper, Don Benny Anderson, of the Army of God, Ms. Shannon decided to risk her freedom. She was especially encouraged by arsonist Marjorie Reed who wrote Ms. Shannon,"If you are going to get a year for just blocking the doors, you might as well do much more drastic measures.... It is going to get a whole lot worse. Blood will be shed, not just the babies blood either."
Shelley Shannon recorded her last blockade as November 17, 1992. By then, this wife and mother of two teenage children, had committed herself to violence and engaged in a year-long arson and butyric acid bombing spree across three states.
Shelley "Shaggy West" ShannonIn her conversations with journalist Judy Thomas, Ms. Shannon said as early as summer 1991, during the siege of Wichita clinics by Operation Rescue, she was convinced that violence, was the way to further her goals. The sentencing report stated Ms. Shannon had the will, but not the way until she read two books, When Bricks Bleed, I'll Cry by convicted arsonist Michael Bray of Maryland, and an early version of the Army of God, the Anarchist's Cookbook for the anti-abortion radical fringe. However, by the time she read the AoG, Ms. Shannon had already embarked on a career of d.r. (direct rescue) beginning in early 1992 with an attack on a clinic in Ashland. She recounts her experiences as novice bomber in Join the Army or How to Destroy a Killing Center if You're Just an Old Grandma Who Can't Even Get the Fire Started in Her Fireplace. Ms. Shannon wrote,"God, if you really want me to do this, you're gonna have to show me how, because I can't even get the fire started in my fireplace. The ideas kept coming, including thoughts from people who had accomplished Big Rescue." My plan was to fill five plastic milk cartons (the kind with the pop off tops) with gasoline, throw them through the window, throw in a lit torch (a stick with oil-soaked rags tied on the end), and scram. I had to know for sure I had God's how, when, and where before I would act. If I was going to spend what's left of my life in prison or die in an explosion, I was at least going to do so in the will of God!"
The document goes on to say that Ms. Shannon practiced her technique and got the final go-ahead from God when she found herself wanting a five gallon gas can which miraculously appeared in her garage. (Her husband brought it home from his job where they were throwing them out.) With this sign, Ms. Shannon purchased the final pieces for her arson kit and set out to commit her first felony. She writes,
"This should provide entertainment for investigators. What kind of terrorist attack could this big hard white soap/gas lump be!?""The goals in order of priority were: 1) shut the place down good. 2) Nobody gets hurt, hopefully not even me. 3) Not get caught.
As bumbling as was her first attempt, Ms. Shannon did succeed in starting a fire in Ashland that caused considerable damage.
It was after this success she wrote and distributed Join the Army with the pen name "Shaggy West" to encourage others to follow her example.
In a second document called Adventures, Ms. Shannon writes of her next arson, this at the Lovejoy Surgicenter."Was feeling really restless and wanted more to do. Debated getting a job. Asked people to pray for me, for God's guidance. Was reading my Bible and God clearly said, 'I'm going to require a little more of you, Shelley.' and the Scripture I read just then was 'The way of the righteous is made plain' in Proverbs 15:19, and an idea come to me of tossing jugs of gas on the roof of Lovejoy and lighting it with a firework (have lots of ground bloom flowers which throw out sparks but aren't too noisey). Practiced and found I can't throw whole gallons high enough. Looked at old videos and thought the roof in back wasn't too high and was flat. Got really great maps and directions from A.C. Alibi was to be at W.P.'s (John Bell) so I wanted to leave here kinda late, but was ready and thought Pups was getting suspicious because I was hanging around, so I left."
Even though on July 19th Ms. Shannon had recorded reading the Army of God manual, (which she told her diary she really enjoyed), this arson was not very successful. She wrote in sorrow to Michael Bray,"Was so sure it was God's how, when, and where. Why no results?"
Rev. Bray reassured her, "Little oaks fell mighty oaks" and she was comforted. Ms. Shannon also received encouragement in July from Marjorie Reed complimenting Ms. Shannon on her "artwork", their code name for arson. With "a little help from her friends", including John Bell, who, according to Ms. Shannon's sentencing report, had fantasized in 1991 about the" hypothetical possibility of torching several clinics" Shaggy West embarked on another adventure."W.P. got me maps and instructions. Stopped there. Was supposed to do Alhambra in Sacramento, go a few blocks and do F.W.H.C. (Feminist Women's Health Center) then make it to Reno. It looked impossible. Big cities terrify me, I can't see well, especially at night, and I get lost easier than anyone. Made it to Alhambra. Could not find it. Drove by and drove by. Some old guy with his doggy got suspicious, I could tell. Smiled and waved but he didn't return it. Glad I was out of charcoal for fake (obviously) beard. Had hair tied back and camouflage shirt though, and parked and walked up and down."
Ms. Shannon continued to F.W.H.C. where she succeeded in starting a fire, even though she "forgot to light the napalm""This should provide entertainment for investigators. What kind of terrorist attack could this big hard white soap/gas lump be!?"
Unfortunately, Ms. Shannon had set fire to the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, not a clinic.
Undaunted, Ms. Shannon proceeded to try her hand at "liquid rescue" butyric acid, a colorless, but extremely vile smelling liquid that can cause harm to humans and devastate property with its nauseous indelible odor."W.P. insisted I try to get some liquid rescue (butyric acid). Asked M.G. to send some. But then I was at Pat's and he ordered some other stuff, found out he could get it, so put in an order. W.P. sent $80. It came. Cancelled order from M.G. Got the disgusting stuff. Had it around here a while. We opened it at Pat's and just from touching the outside of the jar my hand stunk for a very long time!"
Ms. Shannon's comments give credence to all the clinic personnel who have testified to the debilitating nature of a butyric acid attack -- testimony that has been challenged by anti-choice activists claiming that the acid is "just a stink bomb."
Acting on instructions from the AoG manual, Ms. Shannon purchased syringes to deliver the acid into building walls. While making these preparations in September, Ms. Shannon began yearning to commit another arson and drove to Eugene to attack the Feminist Women's Health Center -- an attack foiled when the fire melted a plastic watering pipe which extinguished the blaze.
According to the sentencing report, Ms. Shannon immediately proceeded to Reno where she gained entry to a clinic by pretending to be a patient. While in the bathroom she made a hole in the wall with an ice pick and emptied four hypos of butyric acid. As she told her diary,"In car I changed needles and guess I bagged up used ones. I had got far more than one drop on me. Even tasted it. It's awful. Didn't dump them at rest area on the way to Susanville though. Stinks! M.G. told me baking soda mixed in water, so I had jugs and extra, but it doesn't get it good. Plus used lysol, purfume.(sic)"
The next day, Ms. Shannon succeeded in causing similar damage to a clinic in Chico, California. In two days, Ms. Shannon had attacked three clinics. She wrote of these "adventures","The same week these happened, eight mills in Michigan also had butyric acid attacks, followed by at least four more the next week, PtL! (Praise the Lord) Culprits often get inspired at the same time. Holy Ghost."
November 1992 was Ms. Shannon's final arson. Her computer file cristadvent 2 tells that over the past two months she had been studying explosives and learned "how to blow up a building real good with acetylene gas." She contemplated doing that to three different sites in one night, and even reconnoitered for the purpose, but eventually settled on just attacking the Alhambra clinic. The Thanksgiving holiday with most family out of the house (excpt her sick son who she sent away) gave her an opportunity to get the gasoline needed and make preparations. According to her account, as she left on this final mission she was in a wonderful frame of mind."Didn't even care if I made it back, or care so much about getting caught or killed, just wanted to close the place good. It was supposed to be a birthday present to Jesus, early for expediency, but I found it was He who gave me a gift. From Him and to Him and through Him. What could I do for Him or give Him? Trip was so good. Fresh batteries, so I listened to White Cross a lot. Someone was definitely praying for me, and I expect that Curt (Beseda) was probably even fasting for me and the work, knowing him."
Ms. Shannon's final arson was a huge success resulting in $175,000 damage which caused the clinic to relocate and slight injury to a firefighter. In her narrative of this event she said, "Hope no one was hurt or anything", but by January 1993, there was a change in her attitude which ultimately resulted in her attempt on the life of Kansas Doctor, George Tiller.
In Part II, we continue with excerpts from Ms. Shannon's letter and diaries illustrating her feelings on u.d.r. (ultimate direct rescue), her shooting of Dr. Tiller, and her association with convicted murderers Michael Griffin and Paul Hill.
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