Eagar -- He lives in the only house atop a high mesa with a bird's-eye view of scenic Round Valley. Better to broadcast that way and look out for agents of the federal government, say friends of William Cooper, whose apocalyptic, militia-inspired shortwave radio programs attracted Timothy McVeigh as a regular listener in the months before the Oklahoma City bombing.
When McVeigh needed written inspiration, he repeatedly read William Pierce's The Turner Diaries. However, McVeigh is said to have turned his shortwave dial to Cooper's invective for verbal inspiration. James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma bombing co-defendant Terry Nichols, testified about Cooper's broadcasts in 1996 during a pretrial hearing in Oklahoma City. McVeigh even paid a personal visit to Cooper, who at the time was living and broadcasting 30 miles up the highway in St. Johns, a couple of months before the bombing in early 1995, said Nolan Udall, an Eagar repairman and close friend of Cooper. "McVeigh wanted his (Cooper's) help but wouldn't tell him what for," Udall said. "Finally, Bill just got frustrated with him and told him to leave him alone."
Cooper refused to respond to interview requests by telephone and e-mails to his Web site, which peddles audio of his past broadcasts on his show, The Hour of the Time, and keeps a running diary of his "siege" by the federal government.
"Kiss my (expletive), and don't ever call this number again," Cooper said before hanging up. But Cooper, in his late 50s, has legal problems of his own as McVeigh's execution draws near.
About three years ago, Cooper didn't appear in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on charges that he failed to pay taxes from 1992 to 1994 and submitted false information to a bank to obtain a loan. Federal law officers vowed at the time that they would arrest Cooper eventually.
However, they cautioned that there would not be a repeat of Waco, where more than 80 Branch Davidians died when their compound was burned in 1993, or Ruby Ridge, where federal agents laid siege to Randy Weaver's backwoods Idaho cabin and killed his wife and son.
Eagar Police Chief Scott Garms said his department has had a number of discussions with the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI about the best way to take Cooper into custody.
"I've made my opinions known that there's no reason to go in and storm that house and make a martyr out of him," Garms said.
Tom McCombs, chief deputy marshal for the district of Arizona, did not return phone calls regarding Cooper.
Cooper noted on his Web site that he sent most of his family out of the country in 1999 for "security reasons" and that "they are now safe from Nazi Jack-Booted Thugs."
In more recent entries on his Web site, Cooper says that he was not able to attend his mother's funeral because of a threat from the "Nazi Gestapo" and that federal agents had attempted to coerce his daughter into helping with his apprehension.
"I am prepared and ready for them. I will resist this tyranny even unto death," Cooper posted on his Web site.
Udall said the only way the situation can be handled peacefully is if federal agents will answer Cooper's questions about the government's right to collect taxes.
"Someone is going to die if they go up there with force because Bill carries a handgun on himself at all times," Udall said. Just getting Cooper out of town would be a relief to many people living in the Eagar area. Udall said his family owns land on the mesa near Cooper and has been subdividing it. There have been numerous run-ins between Cooper and real estate agents and Udall's brother, Jeff, a former Eagar town council member, Nolan Udall said.
Jeff said he was accosted by Cooper near Cooper's house one day on a public road when Jeff was checking on his family's land.
"He started screaming obscenities, and I've never been so startled in my life," Jeff Udall said, adding that Cooper also "waylaid" a new football coach at Round Valley High School who had come for a vantage point to shoot a videotape. "He sits up there isolated and locked in his little world," Udall said. "The people in town have talked about the situation with him being here but figure it's best just to leave him alone because it really could be another Ruby Ridge."
Glenn Jacobs, a longtime Eagar resident and newspaper publisher and once a close associate of Cooper, said Cooper has "burned a lot of bridges" since moving to Round Valley in the late 1990s.
"We had our break when I denounced him as a murderer and he said I was Judas," Jacobs said, adding that he was wrong in his accusation against Cooper. "But the good thing is that he started a low-power radio station here that plays old music, which I like."