May 3, 1997 Colorado Springs, CO
Antigovernment extremists set fire to the IRS office in Colorado Springs, Colo., causing $2.5 million in damage and injuring a firefighter. Federal agents later arrest five men in connection with the arson, which is conceived as a protest against the tax system. Ringleader James Cleaver, former national director of the antigovernment Sons of Liberty group, is accused of threatening a witness and eventually sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a release date of 2030. Accomplice Jack Dowell receives 30 years and is scheduled to be freed in 2027. Both are ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution. Dowell’s cousin is acquitted of all charges, while two other suspects, Ronald Sherman and Thomas Shafer, plead guilty to perjury charges in connection with the case.
The Second Wave: Return of the Militias
Southern Poverty Law Center Special Report