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Anatomy of a standoff

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Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2010 12:00 am

“I was defending

and protecting

my dignity

and the sovereignty

of my domain.”

Victor Dwayne White

In the midst of a nearly 22-hour standoff with law enforcement, Victor Dwayne White stopped firing his .308-caliber rifle at the helicopters hovering over his compound, slugged back “three or four shots” of Wild Turkey American Honey and began strumming his guitar.

As many Odessans watched in transfixed horror, fearing a repeat of the infamous police officer shootings of three years ago, White relished what may have been his final hours as a free man in the familiar seclusion of his own little world.

“I even cleaned house at one point,” White said in a jailhouse interview last week, his first since he surrendered to law enforcement. “There was nothing else to do except listen to the helicopters go by.”

“They didn’t scare me,” White insisted somewhat cavalierly. “Nothing scared me.”

The standoff last weekend — in which authorities said White shot and wounded two Ector County sheriff’s deputies and one other man — marked the culmination of years of simmering resentment on the part of White, a 55-year-old Army veteran who sympathizes with the secessionist sentiments of the Republic of Texas movement. Before White thrust himself into the forefront, instantly becoming the center of bewildered attention in the area, he had for years waged his own quiet rebellion against the system.

Since the mid-1980s when he settled into his residence — a refuge underneath a large hill south of West University Boulevard in West Odessa, White has refused to pay thousands of dollars in property taxes, according to interviews and public records. In 1993, his obstinacy led to a less public standoff with local taxing entities, which sued White to collect six years of delinquent taxes and attorneys’ fees.

“Victor’s just a volatile person sometimes,” said White’s identical twin brother, Richard White, in a phone interview from Fort Wayne, Ind. “He’s set in his own ways. You’re invading his little part of Texas.”

Tax records from 1993 do not show who ultimately paid White’s taxes, allowing him to redeem his 13-acre property after it had been foreclosed upon. But the eviction notice White received in the thick of the proceedings sent him into hiding nevertheless, friends said.

“He very, very, very rarely came out,” said Ken Nelson, a longtime friend who, like others, took food to White so he didn’t have to go shopping. Nelson said White never strayed far from home because he feared the authorities would seize his property in his absence.

Richard White described his brother as a “recluse hermit” who has “lived off nothing forever.”

“He’s farmed. He made a generator out of a single piston motor one time,” Richard White said. “He’s a very intelligent person when it comes to some things.”

Victor White’s desire to be alone extended beyond his aversion to law enforcement and tax collectors. Richard White said more than five years have passed since he’s seen his identical twin brother.

“We’ve been trying to hammer it into his head for years,” Richard White said. “Sometimes things have to happen to people for them to realize just how far off the bubble they are.”

Victor White, in the jailhouse interview, said he tried his best for 15 years “to stay out of this city government’s hair and not let this happen.”

It was the sight of a sheriff’s deputy walking on his property that sent him over the edge.

 

“He hates all law enforcement

since he shot at every one of them

he had a chance to.

It wasn’t a personal thing or any confrontations

we’ve had personally.”

Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson

 

 

THE STANDOFF

At about 4 p.m. on Sept. 17, Ector County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricky Tijerina accompanied two employees of Whiting Petroleum Corp. who wanted to speak to Victor White about an oil well on his property. One of the employees, Luke A. Bedrick, said the company owns the mineral rights to the land.

Sheriff Mark Donaldson said White had blocked off the company’s access road and left notes on a pipe trailer indicating he was unhappy about some chemicals the company used to kill weeds around a pumpjack.

“They were poisoning my water,” White said from his jail cell.

Company officials learned about the issue the day before the shootings and dispatched Bedrick and another employee to assure White that the company would test the water, Donaldson said.

“They went out there to appease him,” Donaldson said. A Whiting Petroleum spokeswoman in Midland declined to comment.

After confronting White on his property, Donaldson said Tijerina quickly realized the danger of the situation and “turned around to tell those guys, ‘We need to leave.’ ”

During the 30-minute jailhouse interview, Victor White offered contradictory explanations for his violent reaction upon seeing the deputy. He initially said Tijerina became “very fidgety” and appeared to be unholstering his weapon as he approached the residence, but he later claimed he “never had a clear shot” at anyone involved in the standoff.

“My self-preservation kicked in,” White said near the beginning of the interview. “I put a couple of rounds behind (Tijerina). No officer was to have been on my property.”

Donaldson disputed White’s account of the confrontation, saying Tijerina “didn’t pull his gun out of his holster.”

“I don’t know if he touched his gun walking up (to the property),” Donaldson added.

Three shots struck Tijerina, authorities said. One reportedly entered the back of his shoulder and came out around his neck, family members said.

Donaldson said White later shot Bedrick once in the lower leg from long range, though White said, “I didn’t even know who that was at the time.”

“I didn’t hear three words from the guy before he started shooting,” Bedrick said at his home last weekend.

Later in the jailhouse interview, White seemed surprised to learn that anyone had been wounded at all as a result of his firing. “Only the cars was I shooting at,” White said. “They must have stepped into the bullets. Please believe me when I say I’m a good shot.”

Richard White said he doesn’t believe his brother intended to kill anyone.

“If he wanted to shoot them he could have,” he said. “I’ve seen him take a .357 Derringer and shoot the bottom out of a Coke bottle at about 10 feet. I’ve seen him shoot aspirins with a .22 short. He can pluck the hairs off a gnat’s ass, I’m not kidding you.”

After Tijerina and the others fled White’s property, Donaldson said Victor White took control of Tijerina’s patrol vehicle and began taunting law enforcement over his police radio. About 30 minutes after the first shooting incident, Donaldson said White shot Sgt. Steve McNeill, who had since arrived on scene as part of a sniper unit.

The bullet grazed McNeill in the head, but authorities said he was not severely injured. All three victims have since been treated for their injuries and released from Medical Center Hospital. It’s not yet clear when the deputies will return to work, Donaldson said.

As both deputies were being rushed to the hospital, law enforcement officers arrived at White’s compound in droves. Sheriff’s officials said more than 150 officers from about 20 law enforcement agencies eventually assisted in the standoff.

Throughout the standoff, White fired multiple rounds at officers on the ground as well as two helicopters circling above. Donaldson told reporters shortly after White’s arrest that he heard bullets “whizzing by my ear.”

“I had fun firing at the tanks,” White said, referring to two armored vehicles that were parked in front of his residence. “I wanted them to go ahead and finish me off.”

After nearly 22 hours, White said he decided to surrender because “my whole house was riddled with bullets.

“Everything I collected was gone,” he said.

White said he started a fire by pouring gun powder in a can and igniting it with “firecracker fuses.”

“I knew that was probably the only way out,” White said. “God was watching over me.”

 

“Victor’s just a volatile person sometimes.

He’s set in his own ways.

You’re invading his little part of Texas.”

Richard White

Victor White’s identical twin brother

 

A TAXING HISTORY

Though White has spent most of his life in Texas, he was born in Upland, Calif. White’s father was believed to have died in an earthquake, so his mother, a waitress, was tasked with raising five boys on her own, Richard White said.

Richard White said Victor was among the smartest of his siblings, earning good grades in school.

At an early age, Victor White and his brother moved with their family to Texas. Richard White said the family “lived a lot in Odessa” because they were “oilfield-oriented people.” He said they also lived at times in Barstow and Wichita Falls. When the family was living in Huntsville, Richard White said his mother often threatened to drive her sons to a prison near their home to show them “what happens to people who misbehave.”

Victor White took an interest in guns from an early age. “He was pretty quick. When he was 16, he was capable of quick drawing,” Richard White said of his brother. “I think that’s what happened out there (during the standoff),” he added. “Victor is known to draw. He knows himself he’s a little volatile.”

Once, while quick drawing, Victor White shot himself in the thigh but still managed to drive himself to the hospital, Richard White said.

Victor White and his brother both tried to join the military around the time they turned 18. Richard White said he wasn’t accepted because of a severe head injury he once sustained. Victor White, however, was accepted into the Army and was stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash. Contrary to earlier reports, Victor White said he never served in the Vietnam War but said he was a part of the 2/75 Airborne Rangers.

After completing his military service, Victor White said he returned to Odessa in the early 1980s and began working with his brothers as a pipe layer. At some point, Victor White said he was badly injured on the job when a piece of “eight and five” broke his back.

“My toes have been tingling since 1983,” Victor White said, adding he can “barely walk.”

Richard White said his brother has survived off a civil settlement he collected from that injury. When Victor White was arrested in 1993 and charged with kicking in a door in West Odessa, he indicated in court filings that he received $1,200 a month from a “back settlement” but noted that he had “no food on the table,” court documents show.

“I can’t see how he survived this long,” Richard White said, noting his brother “cooks like a bachelor” and rarely eats vegetables.

 

 

“He was just kind of radical.

It wasn’t an idle deal;

it was the real deal.”

Odessa attorney Denis Dennis

on the potential threat from White in 1993.

 

A LESS PUBLIC STANDOFF

Even while Victor White collected his settlement checks, he didn’t believe in giving any money to the government. He refused to pay property taxes on his 13-acre plot of land off West University Boulevard.

He also told family members that driver’s licenses were “unconstitutional,” his brother said. Victor White once pleaded guilty to driving without a license after he was pulled over driving his ‘67 Ford pickup not far from his home, court documents show.

In 1993, the Ector County Independent School District and other taxing entities filed suit against White, seeking to collect more than $3,000 in delinquent taxes and attorney’s fees. White responded by filing into court documents various anti-government articles and a photocopy of a bumper sticker that read “Fight organized crime, abolish the IRS.”

An Ector County District Clerk’s Office employee recalled the day Victor White walked into the clerk’s office and distributed fliers printed by the “Citizen’s Crime Commission.”

“Beware,” the flier reads in part. “The United State of America is alive in Odessa, Republic of Texas, and public servants who have and are violating the law will be served and made to stand trial for their crimes … We promise with the full force of God behind us that we will resist any and all attacks by you in a legal, lawful manner until you stop violating the law and start obeying the law.”

Denis Dennis, an Odessa attorney whose law firm sued White to collect the delinquent taxes, warned the clerks in court filings to be careful around White.

I want you and your people to be aware that this is the radical person who made threats to our office,” Dennis wrote. “Please inform your staff to be cautious when dealing with this defendant.”

In a phone interview last week, Dennis recalled that an inspection of White’s property before the foreclosure revealed “weapons, booby traps” and “the same type of stuff (law enforcement) encountered last weekend.”

Dennis said his firm hired a security guard and installed a panic button after White “came up to the office and physically told the receptionist that he was going to kill all the lawyers in this firm.”

“He was just kind of radical,” Dennis said. “It wasn’t an idle deal; it was the real deal.”

According to the Ector County Appraisal District, White currently owes about $2,000 in property taxes dating back to 1995.

 

“He’s a man that stands up for his rights.

He doesn’t take any horse crap from nobody.

They’ve been trying

to get him off of his property

for some time.”

Ken Nelson

Longtime friend of Victor White

 

 

PLANS TO RETALIATE

White’s resentment toward law enforcement has not subsided since his arrest.

“He hates all law enforcement since he shot at every one of them he had a chance to,” Donaldson said. “It wasn’t a personal thing or any confrontations we’ve had personally.”

White, who is being held in the Midland County Central Detention Center in lieu of bonds totaling $2 million, has been charged with three counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Trooper John Barton of the Department of Public Safety said the third count of attempted capital murder stemmed from a shot White reportedly fired Saturday at a tactical officer.

White does not yet have a defense attorney. Richard White said the family “doesn’t have any money” and is hoping someone will “come forth” to represent Victor White.

Victor White, in the interview, vowed to retaliate against law enforcement by filing a civil lawsuit seeking $175 million from the city of Odessa “for reckless endangerment of my due tranquility.” Should he prevail, he promised to give $1 million to “each and every officer who got a paper cut in the ordeal.”

“I’m here to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” White said. “Someone needs to teach this city government a lesson.”

“I don’t care if I get off innocent or not as long as the truth gets out,” he said.

 

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