Labor Day weekend marked the one year anniversary of the execution-style slayings of Rainbow Farm campground owner Grover “Tom” Crosslin and Roland “Rollie” Rohm. Both died during a 5-day standoff with the FBI and Michigan state and local law enforcement.

A 3-part series in the South Bend Tribune recounted the tragedy and raised new and troubling questions surrounding the deaths. The Tribune’s lead noted that the once vibrant campground – rated by High Times Magazine as among the nation’s Top Ten “stoner” spots – “…today resembles nothing so much as a graveyard.” In the mid-1990s, Crosslin opened his Vandalia, Michigan farm as a site for hemp festivals involving education, relaxation, music and politicians speaking out for legalization of hemp and decriminalization of industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Rainbow Farms was a Liberated Zone; a respite from the deranged policies of the Reagan-Bush drug war.

While the far right rallied around the murders at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the shocking events of 9/11 diverted attention away from the similar scenario involving the FBI’s role in the killings of Crosslin and Rohm. Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter began to threaten that he would seize Crosslin’s property. On May 9, 2001, he charged Crosslin with various felonies including maintaining a drug house and firearm possession. Both these charges were dismissed a month later. Michigan Child Protective Services removed Rohm’s then-12-year-old son Robert from the home he shared with his father and Crosslin. A remaining felony charge of manufacturing marijuana, from a few plants found on site, was still pending against Crosslin and Rohm.

The 5-day standoff began at noon August 31, the normal starting time for the Rainbow Farm’s annual Labor Day “Roach Roast” weekend festival. While the cause remains cloudy, a fire broke out at the farm pavilion and, according to the “official” version, Crosslin fired a gun at a TV helicopter circling his property. Since shooting at an aircraft is a federal crime, more than 50 FBI agents surrounded the farm joined by 50 more Michigan state police and Cass County Sheriff’s deputies. According to Teter, FBI Special Agent Richard Solomon fired a sniper round into Crosslin’s forehead after Crosslin allegedly pointed a gun at him. The official report says that Crosslin never got off a shot, according to the Tribune. Rohm was shot dead the next day.

Rohm’s stepfather, John Livermore of Rogersville, Tennessee, hired a private investigator to look into the killings. Livermore told the Tribune that nearly “every aspect” of Teter’s official version of the slayings is inaccurate. Livermore claims that he can “prove Rohm was handcuffed before he was shot execution-style,” according to the Tribune.

Livermore told the Tribune “’He was handcuffed and was on his hands and knees when he shot.’”

Oddly, the Michigan state police don’t dispute that Rohm was handcuffed. Rather, they claim he was cuffed after he was shot as a precautionary measure. In the official version, Michigan State Police Sgt. Dan Lubelan fired a large 3.08-caliber Remington sniper round through Rohm’s chest, while Trooper John Julin fired eight shots from an M-14 at Rohm, hitting him in the leg. “An arrest squad, moving in using an armed car as cover, ran in and handcuffed Rohm’s prone body. Rohm was pronounced dead at the scene,” the Tribune reported.

Doug Leinbach, former Rainbow Farms manager from 1996-2000, sent the Free Press an email praising the Tribune’s series. “So far, 90% of what’s been printed is simply the repeat of the “official” story. … They [the Tribune] were very kind to us.”

“We were well-intentioned and ran our business very responsibly. Many people in our community benefited in many ways from our activities,” Leinbach wrote.

Prosecutor Teter had been targeted by Crosslin, Rohm and Rainbow Farm advocates for political defeat along with the county sheriff in upcoming elections. Teter recently announced that the 43-acre Rainbow Farm would be auctioned off in parcels. Livermore told the Tribune that the auction will bring only “pennies on the dollar” for the land which he claims is worth several million dollars. Teter is using the leverage of the civil forfeiture under the drug laws to push his auction solution. The money will go to Rohm’s son Robert, according to Rohm and Crosslin’s wills.

Livermore and other Rainbow Farm supporters contend that the investigation of Rainbow Farms and the land seizure was motivated by dollar signs. Others point to the insane politics of the drug war and see Crosslin and Rohm as martyrs for attempting to fight back politically first, then refusing to surrender the farm. Leinbach said, “Someday the real story about what happened to Tom and Rollie will be told. … I will believe nothing I am told about my friends’ murders until an extensive investigation is done and a court hears the real facts and makes its informed decision.”

The Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism sponsored some of the Rainbow Farms festivals.

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