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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.