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05/23/2005 Archived Entry: "Libertarian Larry Dead"

This news item leaves me speechless...Libertarian Larry is dead.

Deadly day in Pocatello: Standoff drives residents from neighborhood

By John O'Connell - Journal Writer

He led two lives.

People throughout town knew Larry Fullmer as "Libertarian Larry." For decades, he made waves writing controversial letters to the editor on topics such as politics, war and evolution. Neighbors and co-workers knew the other Larry Fullmer - the pleasant but solitary man in his early 60s who surfaced only to walk his tiny dog in the alley behind his Garfield Avenue home.

He made two cries for help.

The first, an e-mail to his sister received Sunday morning. He wrote he was despondent and thinking of taking his own life. The second was a typed letter with a similar message, which he left in a neighbor's mailbox later that afternoon.

He fired two shots.

It was just after 9 a.m. Pocatello police officers went to Fullmer's small, yellow home at 1515 N. Garfield Ave. to perform a welfare check requested by his sister. They found no one at home and left.

Two hours passed, and a neighbor called to report the distressing letter. Officers returned and entered his home to find Fullmer inside, in his hallway, brandishing a firearm in an "aggressive manner." They backed away, and Fullmer ducked into another room. They heard the gunshots. Pocatello's immediate response team set up road blocks covering an area of several blocks. Police evacuated neighbors in the immediate vicinity, and at 1 p.m., told residents within 800 feet of Fullmer's home to evacuate via reverse 911 telephone calls.

It was 2:41 p.m. Police parked a trailer, which served as their mobile command center, in the parking lot of the nearby fire station. The immediate response team waited with shields in hand in a neighbors shady front yard. A sniper lied on the ground at the base of a tree, his gun aimed at Fullmer's open front door. Fullmer had no telephone and efforts to reach him by e-mail failed. A minute passed and the team's trained negotiator addressed him with a megaphone. Members of the immediate response team cross the intersection at North Hayes and Gould Streets Sunday afternoon responding to a suicide note.

"Larry, Larry, we need to talk to you. Larry, we want to make sure you're all right. Larry this is the Pocatello Police Department. We are here to help you. We will not hurt you."

At 2:42 p.m., the negotiator warned him to come out with his hands up, or his house would be filled with gas.

Nine more minutes passed.

"Larry come on, do it now!"

It was 3:03 p.m. "Bang!"

The group of neighbors gathered to watch the events unfold gasped and jumped. The officers fired a round of gas inside Fullmer's home.

Two minutes later, there was a second bang. A third bang followed at 3:15 p.m. At 3:17 p.m., there was another one. The officers fired a fifth and final round of tear gas at 3:22 p.m.

"You got your gas mask?" one of the officers asked a colleague in the emergency response team. It was 3:44 p.m., and the team started moving toward the house.

Garry Pritchett, of the Pocatello Police Department, approached the crowd of neighbors.

"Hey folks, we're trying to listen to the officers. Please keep it down, or we're going to have to ask you people to leave," Pritchett told them.

It was 3:46 p.m., and the officers were in position on Fullmer's front porch and side yard. They shattered two window panes and entered.

At 3:53 p.m., the officers gathered on Fullmer's front porch stood at ease and started conversing with each other. A few walked away from the house, back toward the command center. Others remained to rope off Fullmer's property with yellow police tape.

Larry Fullmer was never one to shy away from an argument, and his letters to the editor frequently spurred seemingly endless debates with other letter writers.

Take Fullmer's Aug. 6, 2004, letter on the war in Iraq. He wrote about his lack of empathy for families of soldiers killed in Iraq.

"Those families did nothing to oppose this war - not for liberty, but for empire. They did nothing to keep their sons and daughters from going, either ... The blood of their children is on their very own hands."

On Oct. 31, 2004, Fullmer denounced both John Kerry and George Bush and encouraged voters to pick the Libertarian Party candidate, Michael Badnarik. He weighed in on evolution Aug. 6, 2004, and responded to a letter written by Albert Gius, who claimed science's take on the topic is flawed because it differs from the Bible. "Is all of modern science guided by the devil, or what? It's a fair question Albert. I await your response. In the meantime, Albert, I'm glad you're around. With friends like you, who take it seriously and thus expose it for what it is, religion - faith without evidence, even despite the evidence - needs few enemies."

Priscilla Hearst met Fullmer on a few occasions, but she knew him best through his letters. She liked that he stood his ground, even when she disagreed with him. "Even under circumstances that were hostile, he stood his ground, and he had a message to give. I respected him for that," Hearst said. "He took a different approach. I think sometimes newspapers need to publish that kind of stuff."

For a man with such strong opinions, outside of print, he kept them to himself at his job at Heinz Frozen Foods. "I don't think I've ever seen anybody say more than a couple of words to him," said coworker Dave Millward, whose mother Judy sold Fullmer his home at 1515 N. Garfield Ave.

It was just after 4 p.m. Police cars started pulling away from their road blocks. Pritchett addressed the media. He explained police fired no shots during the encounter. As for Fullmer, Pritchett couldn't say if his two shots were aimed at police, himself or nothing in particular. But an emergency medical technician could find no vital signs, and his body was cold to the touch and surrounded by blood.

Fullmer had been dead for several hours.

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