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  At Death's Door
Twenty-four years ago, a young police officer met the future heir apparent of the Aryan Nations. It almost cost him his life

 
 
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Dayton Police Officer David Koenig, in a photo taken one year after his near-fatal shooting by Harold Ray Redfeairn.
Editor's note: On Feb. 28, 1979, Harold Ray Redfeairn (see profile The Cop-Shooter), who has since become one of America's most infamous hate group leaders, set off on a crime spree that landed him in mental institutions and prison until 1991. Then 26, the Chicago native had already seen — and caused — plenty of trouble.

According to later court testimony, Redfeairn was discharged from the U.S. Army after going AWOL, then struggled to make ends meet while living with his mother and stepfather in Dayton, Ohio. They testified that Redfeairn tried to kill both himself and his mother during this time. His brushes with the law included jail time for a robbery.

But that was small change compared to what happened — and almost happened — beginning at 3 o'clock on a chilly February afternoon in Dayton, when Redfeairn robbed a Howard Johnson's hotel at gunpoint. Three hours later, Redfeairn — who now preaches the violent, anti-Semitic "gospel" of Christian Identity — arrived at Pete's Auto Sales, where he flashed his newfound wad of cash and convinced a reluctant salesman to take him on a test drive.

During the drive, Redfeairn stuck a gun in the salesman's chest and said, "Well, pal, this is the end for you." At Redfeairn's 1981 trial, Paul Bruns Jr. testified that he pleaded for his life in terror. "I kept begging and pleading and finally he just said, 'Turn around and start walking down the road.' He said, 'You look back, you are a dead son of a bitch.'"

Bruns felt lucky to survive. But several hours before dawn the next morning, Redfeairn was pulled over by a 22-year-old Dayton police officer for having no license plates on the stolen car. Ever since he testified in court about his violent encounter with the future neo-Nazi leader, the officer, David Koenig, has been reluctant to tell his story publicly.

But Koenig, who has since left law enforcement, recently spoke with the Intelligence Report about his chilling experience and the lessons he has learned since then about the threat posed by America's neo-Nazis.

With Redfeairn poised to take command of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations upon the demise of its ailing founder, Richard Butler, Koenig's tale now seems more important — and cautionary — than ever.


INTELLIGENCE REPORT: What made you decide to become a police officer?

DAVID KOENIG: Oh, gosh, it's just what I always wanted to do. Nobody in my family was in law enforcement, but my dad was best friends with a Cincinnati cop. I went straight from high school to the [police] cadet program they had at the time in Cincinnati. I got laid off there, and that's how I ended up in Dayton.

IR: What had your police career been like up until your encounter with Ray Redfeairn?

KOENIG: Actually, I was only out of the academy three months. I was a patrol officer, city of Dayton.

IR: Do you remember what happened on March 1, 1979?

KOENIG: I pulled him [Redfeairn] over on a traffic stop for no license plates on the vehicle. It was around 3 in the morning, a cool night, snow melting on the ground. It had started drizzling when I went up to him. He didn't have any identification or anything.

There was a woman in the car, and he gave me a song and dance that this was his best friend's wife with him, and geez, how long is this going to take? He was right away nervous, but I think I was too young and dumb to suspect anything.

I took down the VIN [Vehicle Identification Number] number on the vehicle because there were no plates. Went back to my cruiser, and it ended up I didn't have any backup because the burglar alarm had gone off at a Brink's store and everybody else was out there. I called [the] Records [Department] to check information about the car and him and got put on standby. He'd given me a false name, Harvey Lee Jones.

While I was waiting, there were two times that he got out of the car, so I got out, and he kept going, "Jesus, this is my buddy's wife, how long is this gonna take," saying he didn't want to get caught with her, yaddy, yaddy, yaddy.

IR: And what happened then?

KOENIG: He came back a third time, but I didn't know it. I was still on standby, but I was starting to think, "OK, this guy's getting a ticket even though I can't find out anything from Records." So I was turned to open my briefcase on the passenger seat to get my ticket book out and didn't see him come back.

He opened up the driver's door, started firing. Evidently, he fired five shots. It was a .25-caliber semi-automatic. I had a [bulletproof] vest on, but because I had my left hand holding up the briefcase top, my side was exposed and it went through the gap between the panels.

The pain started right above my beltline, and as he was firing he worked his way up. Three of the bullets actually hit me, and two lodged inside. The first one hit above my belt, one hit the front panel [of the vest], then my shoulder, then my neck, then the last one hit the headrest.

The force of it knocked me across the front seat. He climbed in the car on top of me and was holding his gun at my head. I went to reach for my weapon and he was yelling at me not to do that.

I reached over and keyed the radio mike in the car, cause he was yelling all kinds of stuff at me as he's sitting on top of me. When he realized I was holding the mike and told me to let go of that, I started fighting with him.

He dropped his gun, got off of me, got out of the car. I got out behind him, switched channels to put out my assistance call. I remember I had sighted him [in Koenig's gun] when I blacked out. He was climbing into his car.

IR: What was Redfeairn saying when he was on top of you in the cruiser?

KOENIG: Oh, the normal: "You fucking pig, you think you're so bad now, eh?" That line sticks with me. Everything else I don't know.

 
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Faces of the Future
Issue 111 | Fall 2003
 
EDITORIAL
Looking Forward
ON THE COVER:
40 to Watch
Profiles of Key Activists
MONKEY BUSINESS
Neo-Nazi Runs Secret Porn Empire
AGAINST THE WALL
National Alliance in Trouble
AT DEATH'S DOOR
An Officer's Story
'OUR TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD'
The Constitution Party Gears Up
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Southern Heritage Group in Turmoil
INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS
Racist Joins English-Only Group
Anti-Immigration Activist Arrested
Extremists Back Religious Display
Violence Follows Anti-Mexican Talk
Abortion Foe Charged in Molestation
U.S. Moves Against Tax Cheats
Key Racist Leaders Die
Michigan Deputy, Extremist Killed
BOOKS ON THE RIGHT
Re-examining the Portland Trial
LEGAL BRIEF
Radical Religion in Prison
THE LAST WORD
Return of the 'Kosher Nazi'