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Timothy Coombs

Timothy Coombs

Timothy Coombs

A fugitive is wanted for the murder of an Arkansas State Highway Patrolman.

On September 16, 1994, Timothy Coombs shot State Highway Patrolman, Bob Harper, in his Anderson, Missouri, home.   According to police, Coombs was a member of a religious group known as the Freemen.

The Freemen exist on the farthest right fringe of the political spectrum.   While they believe they are the “true Americans,” police call them domestic terrorists.   Author, Kenneth Stern describes the Freemen’s beliefs:

“The Freemen believe that the Constitution is a divinely inspired document, along with the Bill of Rights, that gives them preeminent rights in American society that they do not have to do things like pay income taxes or have driver’s licenses and so forth, because that’s all part of the laws that were passed after the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.   They see these as man-made laws that don’t apply to them.”

In the case of Robert Joos, a self-styled Freeman minister, that philosophy apparently led him to issue fake legal documents.   Joos was convicted of drafting a fake court order for a parishioner who had been arrested for a minor traffic offense.

For nine years, Joos remained free while he contested the conviction–until a new Prosecuting Attorney ordered the Highway Patrol to bring him in.    Sergeant Parks of the Missouri State Highway Patrol explains:

“Mr. Joos has a history of resisting arrest.   And to avoid an armed confrontation on his property where he’s believed to have a large number of weapons, a decision was made to arrest him on a county road where he was by himself.”

When Sergeant Steve Dorsey and Corporal Bob Harper made the arrest, Joos resisted and had to be forcibly taken in.   Robert Joos described the arrest:

“I knew if they were gonna kill me, they were gonna kill me, and there wasn’t anything that I could do except pray to God, and that’s what I was doing. And I knew they had no rightful cause of arrest, and as it turns out they didn’t have any. That’s why they had to make up the story, so they had some reason to hold me, see.”

Robert Joos

Robert Joos

Robert Joos was arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and resisting arrest.

Then, three months later, one of the arresting officers, Corporal Bob Harper, became the target of a sniper. Bob’s wife, Kay Harper, was at home the day of the shooting:

“I heard this loud shot and I ran up the hallway and Bob was laying next to the cabinet and he was trying to tell me that the can had exploded.   And I explained to him that he had been shot.”

It was a miracle that Bob Harper survived.   The bullet missed his heart by just one sixteenth of an inch.

The next day, investigators recovered a vital piece of evidence:   a shell form the gun used to shoot Bob Harper.   Sergeant Parks explains how Joos was targeted for the crime:

“Bob Harper was not known to have any enemies.   And because of his recent involvement in the arrest of Robert Joos we felt that it was probably connected.”

When officers went to the Joos’ farm to speak with his girlfriend,   they were confronted by James Wilson, a resident of Arkansas.   According to police, Wilson said that church elders were training snipers to avenge violations against their religion.

The next day, police called Arkansas authorities to inquire about James Wilson. They discovered that his real name was Timothy Coombs.

By the time police got a search warrant for the Joos farm, Coombs was gone.   But investigators did find a huge arsenal – pistols, rifles and more than 40 sticks of dynamite.

Police also learned that Coombs had previously served time on weapons charges.

That same day, investigators went to Timothy Coombs’ own farm in Witt’s Springs, Arkansas.   They talked to Coombs’ next-door neighbor.   He told them that his horse had been shot and gave them the bullet he had recovered. The neighbor suspected Combs had fired it during   target practice.

According to authorities, a search of Coombs’ property turned up shell casings that reportedly matched the casing found outside Bob Harper’s kitchen window.   The gun the shell casings came from, an SKS rifle, was traced back to Robert Joos. Robert Joos says he had nothing to do with the attack on Bob Harper:

“Didn’t know anything about it until after it happened. Still don’t know that he’s actually shot.   I’ve never seen any medical evidence.   Never heard a doctor testify the man was shot.   As far as I know he had another heart attack and they had to crack his chest to do another emergency open heart on him. They’ll lie about everything and anything to try to frame somebody and the people that are helping them.”

So far, only Timothy Coombs has been charged in the shooting of Trooper Bob Harper.   Authorities believe he has gone underground and is probably being harbored by members of a right wing militia group.