After decades of frustration with the tax system and accountants he called “incompetent,” a Texas man turned his torment into a suicidal attack. On February 18th at 9:56 am, Joseph Stack took a page from the 9/11 terrorists and crashed a light plane into an IRS office in Austin, TX, as a final protest.
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One hundred and ninety people worked in the seven-story Echelon building, an outsourced IRS office. When the Cherokee PA-28 hit, employees were knocked off their feet, they told reporters. Thirteen were injured; two were taken to the University Medical Center at Brackeridge, according to Division Fire Chief Dawn Clopton. One person – an IRS revenue collector – was unaccounted for. By nightfall, TV news reports said the building was still smoking and search dogs were looking for victims.
Stack (age 53 or 54), a software engineer from Austin was confirmed dead. Later it was learned that 45 minutes before the plane crash, he set fire to his home in suburban Austin. Neighbors pulled his wife and 12 year old daughter from the fully engulfed house.
Stack also spent the morning hours posting a 3,000 word anti-tax manifesto on the Internet, which included this line: “Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.” He ranted about the favorable treatment of the rich and powerful including the “vulgar and corrupt Catholic church,” the government bailouts, the bank failures, rules governing self-employment, health care, and more. First a resident of California, Stack had moved to Texas and remarried. His frustration over what he perceived as incompetent representation from accountants and unfair, unequal treatment by the IRS and the government had been mounting for decades. Records show that two of his software companies were recently suspended by the state tax authorities.
Eyewitnesses to the crash said the plane appeared in control, though it was flying at high speed.
“Nothing seemed to be wrong with the plane except that it was flying very low,” witness Mike Ernest told CNN. “A big fireball similar to what happened on 9/11. It's a blessing that only one person is unaccounted for because it really did seem like it could have been a lot worse.”
As soon as the crash was reported, the Pentagon took the precaution of dispatching two F-16’s headed for Austin, evidently fearing the attack might have been terror-related, according to NBC news.
Sources told ABC News that Stack topped off the fuel tank of his small plane before leaving Georgetown Municipal Airport. This appears to have been a “deliberate tactic,” to maximize the explosion and the fire. Authorities are trying to determine whether or not there were additional explosives onboard. Firefighters spent most of the day suppressing the flames that prevented rescuers from searching for victims. By evening, an unidentified body was pulled from the building.
Forensic psychiatrist Michael Weiner appeared on Good Morning America this morning, stating that this was not the case of a man who snapped under pressure. "This is the kind of crime that’s planned for a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he practiced.”
Included in Stack’s manifesto were these words: “I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother’ while he strips my carcass. I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me. I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough. I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less.”
The manifesto ended with this final thought:
“I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”