AP, Dec. 9, 2002
The move was announced online last week by the leader of the group, the Rev. Matt Hale of East Peoria, Ill.
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Hale said the group’s move from Illinois means Wyoming residents will begin to see more leaflets and literature, more demonstrations and more recruiting. He said he could not say why the church was moving.
Hale, who has a law degree, said he will not move to Wyoming but other church members might.
Evan Zuckerman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the group’s literature has inspired members and former members to commit acts of violence.
“Wyomingites should be concerned,” Zuckerman said Saturday.
In 1999, former church member Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a shooting spree that targeted minorities in Illinois and Indiana, killing two people and wounding nine before he killed himself. The victims were former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong and a member of a Korean United Methodist church.
Hale said he has appointed the Rev. Thomas Kroenke as the group’s leader for Wyoming and its world leader of operations.
Kroenke has been a caseworker for the Wyoming Corrections Department, according to his Web site and the 2002 state government directory. He says he became a follower of the church after hearing about it from an inmate.
Riverton, a community of 9,000, is on the Wind River Indian Reservation, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. The city is 87 percent white in a state that is 92 percent white, according to 2000 Census figures.