The second-in-command trooper in Fairbanks had a personal relationship with Schaeffer Cox going back to 1999, when Cox's parents moved to a house across the street from his own.
But that didn't stop Lt. Ronald Wall from drawing his weapon in fear 11 years later when Cox, by then an increasingly erratic militia leader, showed up unannounced at Wall's new home on a hard to find wooded lot outside Fairbanks.
The visit passed without physical conflict, Wall testified at Cox's federal trial Thursday in Anchorage. But Cox made unmistakable, if indirect, threats against the lives of troopers, judges and other officials and their families, Wall said.
In calm, measured testimony on the eighth day of the trial of Cox and two other members of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, Wall directly confronted the point that the defense has been making from the start: that Cox's ideas might seem bizarre or paranoid, but he was never a threat to government officials or the public at large.
The three defendants, Cox, 28, Coleman Barney, 37, and Lonnie Vernon, 56, all from the Fairbanks area, are charged with federal weapons violations and with conspiring to murder federal law enforcement officials. They've been in jail since their arrest March 10, 2011, during a sting set up by the FBI to sell them hand grenades and silencers.
Over most of the day Thursday, federal prosecutors called witnesses who challenged the notion that the militia members were peaceful sorts. They also continued on a theme developed Wednesday, where a key witness, Philip Clark, said Cox, his one-time friend, turned from being an articulate community organizer on Second Amendment and other constitutional issues to a paramilitary leader corrupted by power and dazed by conspiracy theories.
Two witnesses associated with the Christian radio-TV station KJNP -- King Jesus North Pole -- testified about their fear or anger when a militia security detail with assault rifles and pistols showed up at the station unannounced to guard Cox during an interview in November 2010. The militia members set up a checkpoint at the parking lot and at least one sniper position in the shadows by a tree and planned to confront federal officers who might want to arrest or assassinate Cox.
Kevin Fansler, a truck driver who lives on the KJNP property in North Pole with his wife and five children, said he thought something was amiss when he saw a four-wheeler patrolling the grounds with a bright light. Then his oldest son warned that there was a man behind the house with a gun.
Fansler stepped outside, set off his motion lights to illuminate the area, and asked the gunman if he could help him.
"He responded by saying that they were patrolling the area and protecting Mr. Cox," Fansler said. "I said I didn't know him and he was standing behind my home with a gun."
Cox's television interview ended a short time later and the men left, Fansler said, explaining why he didn't call the cops.
Nanette Curtis, a border protection and customs officer, said that Cox once confronted her while she was waiting in line in her uniform at a supermarket pharmacy with a sick kid. Cox was aggressive but not violent, and asserted that her agency, Homeland Security, was illegal, she said.
Curtis said she never gave him her name, but Cox must have read her name tag. After Cox and the others were arrested and their homes were searched, her name and agency were found in a legal pad with other state and federal law enforcement officers.
"That was kind of scary," Curtis said upon seeing her name on the list. "I didn't know I had made that impression with that short interaction we had."
A domestic violence complaint brought by his wife, Marti, in March 2010 became one of the ongoing issues in Cox's life. According to an affidavit filed by a trooper, Marti and Schaeffer got into an ongoing argument on a drive between Fairbanks and Anchorage on Feb. 26, 2010, with their 2-year-old son in the car. Marti complained that Schaeffer punched and choked her, and when Anchorage police came by her hotel room, she had a fingernail abrasion on her neck and redness and swelling on both sides of her neck.
Cox was charged with felony assault, which was reduced to reckless endangerment when he pleaded guilty. In such a situation, state child protective officials routinely interview or observe children in the home for signs of abuse, but Cox refused to allow an investigator to see his son afterward.
That was why Cox visited the home of trooper Lt. Wall.
Wall explained he had an ongoing relationship with Cox. Cox had stopped by the office a few months earlier to explain his concern about the Second Amendment and that he planned to break the laws he was certain would be passed by the incoming Obama administration.
"Mr. Cox's concern was through the way that the government was moving and that with the next president, law enforcement was going to enter people's homes and take their firearms," Wall said.
Then, at Wall's house, Cox said he was upset the state wanted to see his son.
"He said he couldn't control members of his militia and he didn't know how they would react if something happened to him or his family or he as taken into custody," Wall said. "To me, it was leave it alone or else -- it was an implied, veiled threat to me -- I didn't care very much for that." The fact that Cox found his home was part of the threat, he said.
Wall said Cox knew better than the claim he couldn't control his troopers.
"He is a catalyst for their type of behavior," Wall said. "He is promoting himself as the sole purpose of what the militia was about. It wasn't about the right to bear arms, it wasn't about the Constitution, it was about him and his family."
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER
Anchorage Daily News