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January 13, 1999
HATE CRIMES IN FRESHWATER, HUMBOLDT COUNTY
By Adam Miller
The parallels between the so-called justice system in Humboldt County,
California, and that of the Deep South are becoming increasingly
clearer. A series of hate crimes in Freshwater have neighbors agitated
Three months ago, Nathan Madsen, 26, climbed 160 feet up a redwood tree
in Freshwater Valley, to protest the rapid clear-cutting of the
neighborhood. "I used to drive up Freshwater Road regularly. I saw the
beautiful groves of old growth trees. I saw them get painted last year
with the marks the loggers use on doomed trees. I couldnāt stand
watching them fall."
Madsen was aware of the pattern of violence which has been impossible to
ignore over the past few years, directed at forest activists,
protesters, and downstream residents of industrial logging. On October
15, just two days after Madsen began his tree-sit, loggers on Pacific
Lumber land fired two shots at him. "Nate, Iām not shooting you!
Ha-Ha!" they shouted.
The next day six rounds were fired in Madsenās direction. He says "This
was no joke! I was sincerely frightened." So, he called the Humboldt
County Sheriffās department and filed a report.
* * *
On December 25, 1998 Sue Moloney, age 36, a non-violence trainer from
Garberville, parked her 1985 Toyota station wagon in a turn-out on
Kneeland Road, close to Madsenās tree-sit. She ascended Madsenās tree
to sit-in for him, and give him a day off to spend Christmas with his
family. Madsen returned the following day with his sister and all three
were camping on the platform in the tree.
Around dusk on December 26, a car drove up the road and one shot was
fired in the direction of the tree-sitters. Then the car drove off.
At 1:30am the tree-sitters were awakened by the sound of destruction.
Madsen remembers, "At first, I thought they were destroying the platform
in my fellow tree-sitter , Rogerās tree, which is about 300 feet away."
Madsen observed a black 4x4 pick up truck parked next to Moloneyās car.
Its bright headlights illuminated the Toyota. He saw one man in the
back of Moloneyās vehicle and two men stood by holding blunt objects.
Curiously, he heard no voices. "Itās as if they had it all planned in
advance. Nobody talked." said Madsen. "One guy had just started to
speak, them another hushed him up." The men commenced smashing in the
Madsen yelled, "Hey!" The man inside Moloneyās vehicle leapt out and
they got in their truck and drove off. "I expected theyād be back: the
liquor store was open for another half-hour. Theyāve come up here
drinking on many occasions."
The three tree-sitters had almost gone back to sleep when, at 2:45am
they heard the familiar sounds of the black 4x4 pick-up truck coming
back up the hill. "This trucks been up here so many times, I recognize
it by the sound of the engine," said Madsen. "And Iāve heard it since,
as well." Madsen was ready with his video camera. When they arrived,
he was rolling tape.
The black pick-up truck returned with a second vehicle, a gold and green
4x4 pick-up with a diamond box. At least five people with crowbars and
bats begin further smashing the car and its windows.
Moloney called, "Much love to you brothers!"
Madsen shouted, "Merry Christmas!"
The vandals were jumping on the vehicle, wrecking it with implements of
destruction. Then they got back into their trucks and both vehicles
headed up Kneeland Road. But at the next turnout, they turned around and
headed back downhill. With the gold and green 4x4 waiting, the black
pick-up pulled up behind Moloneyās Toyota, and pushed it off the
pavement. The vandals worked silently, they said not a word. Moloneyās
car was pushed over the side of the road and down the embankment.
The pick-up trucks were equipped with such elaborate lighting equipment,
the illuminated the scene, enabling tree-sitters and a neighbor to
videotape this hate crime.
Madsen quickly telephoned a neighbor and alerted them that the vandals
would soon be driving down the road. The neighbor went to Garfield
School, where the Freshwater Road is brightly lit by streetlights.
As the pick-up trucks fled down Freshwater Road, at 65 mph, they
accelerated, and turned off their headlights and swerved into the
opposite lane, driving the neighbor out of the street. The neighbor was
hoping to read the license plates.
The neighbor jumped to safety, but did get a good look at both vehicles,
and recognized the second vehicle as being the one scene fleeing the
scene on the night of the shooting on October 16. Then the neighbor ran
to the phone and called the Sheriff
Sheriffās Deputies told Madsen on prior occasions that he was guilty of
misdemeanor trespassing, and that until he came terminated his tree-sit,
the Sheriffās department would not respond to his calls.
Nevertheless, Humboldt County Sheriffs Deputy Schlesiger, who took the
neighborās call at 3:00am on December 27, was very courteous and
Deputy Schlesiger paged Madsen shortly after 3:00 am. The Deputy wanted
to send down an officer. Madsen was to signal with a flashlight, so the
officer could find him. But, apparently the officer was unable to find
the tree and later, they called Madsen back and said they couldnāt find
On Sunday December 27, Humboldt County Sheriffs Sergeant Wayne Hansen
and to Deputy Chandler drove up Freshwater Road. (Many readers will
remember Sergeant Hansen as the man who peppersprayed a twenty year old
woman three times in thirty minutes on October 9, 1998 at Grizzly
Sue Moloney came down out of the tree to give her statement. Madsenās
testimony was taken over the phone. The Sergeant informed Moloney that,
based upon the neighborās description of the vehicles, the Sheriff was
successful apprehending one of the trucks within half an hour of the
call. All occupants of the vehicle were released on the own
recognizance. The second vehicle was apprehended the next day.
That night local television news anchors, reporting on the incident
stated that the Sheriff was charging the assailants with "petty
vandalism." According to Assistant District Attorney James L. Dawson,
since the value of Moloneyās automobile is less than $5,000, the crime
is classified as a misdemeanor.
The next day, on Monday, December 28, a small group of Freshwater
neighbors went to see Sheriff Lewis. The Sheriff popped his head out of
a door way and asked them what they wanted to discuss. When they told
the Sheriff the reason, he told them, "I donāt have time for this," and
closed the door. Later, a Sheriffs Deputy did take their statements.
Later that morning, they spoke with County Supervisors Stan Dixon and
John Woolley about hate crimes against residents and protesters
exercising their civil rights.
Then they met with Humboldt County Assistant District Attorney James. L.
Dawson. The neighbor who had been run off the road by the fleeing
pick-up trucks charged the vandals with reckless endangerment. The
neighbors were informed that minors had taken part in the vandalism.
When the neighbors complained about the problems the Pacific Lumber
Company was causing in their community, Assistant D.A. Dawson said,
"Donāt talk to me about PL. Iāve got PL on both sides of my property.
No, theyāre not very good neighbors."
Some neighbors told this reporter that the crime was committed by the
local chapter of the KKK. Others say they believe that one of the
vandals was the son of Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis. On
December 11 Sheriff Lewis was interviewed on KMUD radio. When asked if
his son participated in the crime, Lewis was adamant in his denial.
* * *
At 3:45pm on afternoon of Monday, January 11, a neighbor in Freshwater
received a call from tree-sitter Nate Madsen. "Theyāre shooting at
me. Itās scary." Madsen said.
"Maybe there are some folks shooting targets on PALCO land. Iāll be
right up." the neighbor told Madsen. As the neighbor drove up the road,
he heard a pistol firing. The neighbor parked on the landing, behind a
gold-colored Ford Ranger XT pick up truck, California license plate
#4U53430, which was parked about 200 feet away from Madsenās tree. The
neighbor heard over twenty rounds of pistol fire.
As the neighbor was writing down the license plate number, he was
startled by fire from an automatic weapon. "Three of four blasts of
10-15 rounds." The neighbor went home, called 911 and reported the
The 911 operator asked the neighbor to have Madsen call 911 and inform
them if he had been shot. Madsen called 911 and let them know he was
unharmed. He told the dispatcher that they were firing fully automatic
weapons. The dispatcher asked if the bullets had hit the tree. Madsen
said he couldnāt tell because of the dense fog.
The 911 dispatcher connected Madsen with the Sheriffs Department. They
told Madsen an officer would come out. Madsen called 911 and informed
them that the shooters had gotten in their pick-up truck and departed.
He told the dispatchers the gunmen had set up shooting targets, but it
appeared that they werenāt shooting at them, but rather into the
ground. The 911 dispatcher told Madsen no officer would be dispatched.
Madsen reiterated that the fully automatic fire was causing him extreme
The next day, Tuesday, January 12, Madsen called the Sheriffs Department
and demanded the Sergeant on duty take his complaint. He told them that
this not target practice, but rather deliberate intimidation. Because
a call was made to 911, this incident has been assigned case #0238. The
Sergeant pulled Madsenās file card.
"I wanted it on the record that I felt threatened and endangered."
Madsen said. The Sergeant reminded Madsen about the targets. Madsen
told the Sergeant, "Look, I donāt think thereās anything you can do, but
I want it in the record, in anticipation of further incidents."
The Sergeant told Madsen that "no crime had been committed."
"What about the fully automatic weapons?" asked Madsen. The Sergeant
acknowledged that the gunmen may have been trespassing. However, the
Humboldt County Sheriffās Department decided not investigate this crime.
The scene of the shooting has been well documented by local
videographers. The tapes clearly show several empty boxes of Chinese
manufactured ammunition for use in an automatic rifle, such as the AK
47, which are illegal in California. The Norinco brand China Sports
shells measure 7.62mm x 39mm. Also visible in the video are several
dozens of shells from hand-guns, and a Winchester 30/30 rifle. Two
witnesses heard the automatic weapon fire, each unaware of the otherās
* * *
Sue Moloney and several concerned citizens spent several hours on
Tuesday in the office of the Sheriff and the D.A. They repeatedly asked
that the identity of the vandals be released to them. Both the D.A. and
the Sheriff refused their request.
The following night, on January 13, the KMUD Evening News announced the
Sheriffās Department was charging Sue Moloney with violating code
#602.8,trespassing. Which is punishable by a $10 fine.
KMUD also identified the driver of the black pick-up truck which pushed
her car off the road as Travis Kloninger, age 18, of Eureka.
On Tuesday, January 12, frightened Freshwater residents appealed to the
Board of Supervisors to urge further investigation of this pattern of
hate crimes. All Supervisors were present, except John Woolley, who
represents the residents of Freshwater. He was absent due to illness.
Residents told Supervisors they wanted to know the names of the
vandals. They said they wanted the vandals to know they cannot drive
down Freshwater Road at eighty miles an hour, day or night. (Freshwater
residents numerous requests for the installation of speed-bumps on their
narrow, two-lane road have been repeatedly denied by CalTrans.)
Sue Moloney told to the Supervisors:
"Just imagine that itās Christmas-time and you have a friend that has to
go away to visit their family. And they ask you to watch their home.
And by the time they get back, itās too late for you to go home. And
you stay for the evening and youāre sleeping.
"And when you wake up, you hear a loud Crash-Bang-Bang-Bang noise. And
your friend looks out and says, ĪOh my goodness! Theyāre trashing your
"And youāre too scared to go out and even think about looking at them or
dealing with them. And you think itās all over when they leave. And
then in an hour they come back with another car load of people, and they
continue trashing your car. And then they push it over the side of the
"I just want you to imagine what youād feel like if that happened to
you. It was pretty intense. It was pretty scary. Then, I want you to
imagine that seventeen days after this incident happens, thereās still
no report filed by the Sheriff or the D.A.ās office.
"And while you try to be very patient with it, and very optimistic, and
give them a lot of leeway, and be really fair on the phone, that during
this whole time when you call and you ask about this case [and ask for
the officer who took the report] you are told: that officerās taken a
few days off; that officerās on vacation, that officerās in a meeting;
that officer called in sick today.
"I also want to tell you ? itās really ironic, because I do non-violence
training. Iām a non-violence trainer. And all my materials were in
that car when it happened. If I could just disseminate that
information to those kids and talk to them and their families. I would
REALLY like to do that."
* * *
Earl Bootier of Kneeland told the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors:
"Iāve tried to be helpful with Nate [Madsen], because heās representing
a lot of people and a lot of residents who live up in Kneeland who are
very frustrated with the logging practices that are going on. It seems
we have to take extreme measures like citizen Nate did, finally getting
frustrated enough to do something about the issue; when the people who
are representing us, like you, and the Board of Forestry, and US fish
and Wildlife are abdicating you public responsibility.
"I was really prompted to come down when I went to look at the site
where Sue Moloneyās car was deliberately pushed off the mountainside
with a truck. Then I read in the paper that this is a misdemeanor. And
I just find it incredible that someone can break into you car, go in it,
steal from it, leave for an hour, come back, display premeditation, and
with a motor vehicle, shove that automobile off the mountain. And then
I read I the paper, itās considered a misdemeanor!
"It seems to me that what we have is a climate of violence. I think
itās being encouraged by the silence of people like yourselves. The
prime examples I can think of are: the death of David Chain, the
occupation, if thatās what you want to call it that, of Mr. Riggās
office, and this violence on Kneeland Road.
"In David Chainās death, the next day, if my memory serves, I read in
the paper, the Sheriffs that were preliminarily investigating declared
that it was an accident; this is before theyād even investigated the
case! And then, it goes through the process: no charges filed by the
D.A., no charges filed by the Sheriff information offered to the
"I was there the day Nate went up. I was there the day after Nate went
up in that tree. And hallelujah, it was about time somebody was doing
something. And the Sheriffs Department and the highway patrol came up
and they harassed him.
"I was there with a video camera to try to prevent the loggers who were
falling trees, some of them, the branches brushing by the tree that Nate
was in. Screaming obscenities. Threatening us. Running up the hill
brandishing chainsaws - - the same stuff I read about that Earth First!
people said happened in Grizzly Creek with David Chainās death.
"You know, these are MY police officers. OK? Iām a law abiding
citizen: taxpayer, property owner. Iāve been here for a long, long
time. And Iām disgusted that you people have been so silent. And I
want you to hear this, I really want you to hear this: I have read about
the problems in Humboldt County in Time Magazine, in Newsweek, in
newspapers that surround this area· But there is a real, almost
conspiracy of silence about what is going on here. What weāre talking
about is the demise, perhaps already the extinction of the fisheries.
The destruction of water quality. The loss of habitat. The destruction
of the soil. Air quality. And I donāt hear anything from you guys,
with the possible exception of a person whoās not here at the moment,
John Woolley, who has attended some of the public forums, and heās come
to some of the spontaneous meeting that the neighbors have called in
Freshwater and other area.
"And I want you guys to get off the stick. I want to hear from you.
Youāre here representing me and all the other citizens of this county.
I think itās incredible that we have kids that come from Pennsylvania
and Texas. There here. And what are you doing? And itās about time!
Please! Hear what Iām saying. If I sound hostile, itās my
frustration. I want to read tomorrow that you guys are going to do
something about this climate and the demise of sustainable forestry.
Because in five years, I ten years, weāre going to look back, and just
like weāre doing with the fisheries now, weāre going to say, ĪWhereās
all the trees? Where are the jobs that were in the forest?ā The old
Pacific Lumber Company would go on into perpetuity. And we do not have
to kowtow to a person from Texas who stole a billion and a half dollars
from the taxpayers - again, me and you ? and we donāt have to allow him
to fatten his pig while we destroy this county. And Iām a woodworker.
I work with wood all the time. And I believe in sustainable forestry.
I want my kids to be able to use wood. And not this crap particle board
stuff thatās left after they clear-cut and remove all the topsoil."
* * *
On October 10, 1998 the Eureka Womenās Club had a raffle to raise funds
for charity. The date of their event was exactly one year after the
infamous pepperspraying of non-violent protesters by Humboldt County
Sheriffs Deputies. To commemorate this anniversary, the club raffled
off containers of pepperspray.
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