Peter M. Klismet’s book FBI DIARY: home grown terror starts in Colorado. On May 29, 1998 Cortez police officer Dale Dewain Claxton was filling in for another patrolman. They’d traded days so each could attend to personal affairs. It wasn’t anything unusual to do. This was done to help out a fellow officer and was quite routine.
The story of how officer Claxton died is famous. Just google his name and will find the story of how he was ambushed, taken by complete surprise, seatbelt on, shot 18 times in an attack that lasted less than 10 seconds.
Peter Klismet, who has guest blogged here on DCC, describes this awful story from his point of view. He gives us the story in detail and in chronological order. It is a complex story. The three armed fugitives had the advantage of knowing where they were going. The pursuing officers did not know where they were going. But aside from that and the trauma of losing Dale, they faced a chase in which the description (model, make, and colour) of the get-away car changed constantly. It was either a flatbed truck or a truck without a flatbed and as to colour, it was white or orange.
Nobody was purposely feeding the authorities false information. It just happened to fast. The three men changed cars and direction often. Everywhere they met civilians they shot in the air as a warning or pointed at people. “The three seemed to be providing a warning to those ahead and making their presence known. The obvious intent was to clear everyone from their escape path. They displayed no interest in shooting at any of the numerous townspeople who heard the gunfire and came out of businesses to discover what was going on in their part of the city.” But it left many eye witnesses so traumatized that giving a correct description was almost too much to ask.
Peter Klismet follows the chase as it unfolds and lets the participants tell us their story. He starts with himself as he arrived without knowing anything. He describes his briefing and we see the many gaps in the information he was given. After that we hear from witnesses, first responders, etc. to tell their stories.
Where were these three fugitives going? Why had they stolen a water truck? The author gives us three options.
- Robbing the Ute Mountain casino on the Indian Reservation about twelve miles from Cortez
- Robbing a money truck travelling up the highway towards Cortez or,
- Blowing up Glen Canyon Dam
The author gives us details for each option including things said, items found, and writings received by other people. However, for the author the first option seemed the most likely: robbing the Ute Mountain casino in the small town of Towaoc, Arizona.
The stolen water truck could be used to ram their way inside the casino. The truck was strong enough to take down a wall. The water truck as get-away car gave them an impenetrable barrier with police in pursuit. The metal cylinder would stop bullets from hitting them. The water truck, big as it was, could drive on any surface.
Peter Klismet concludes that in “all probability, Jason McVean, Robert Mason, and Alan “Monte” Pilon had relegated themselves to the lowly status of common thieves. They were hardly terrorists, at least in the conventional sense of the word. And were it not for the intervention of an officer trying to perform his normal duties, they probably would have succeeded.”
This book is highly recommended reading for those interested in true crime and especially how afterwards was determined what happened to the three fugitives.
Rest in peace Officer Dale Dewain Claxton.
About the Author: Peter Klismet served his country with two tours in Vietnam on submarines. Following military service, he earned a college degree, and then worked for the Ventura Police Department in Southern California. While there, he attended graduate school, earning two master’s degrees. He was offered and accepted an appointment as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a twenty-year career with the FBI, the author was highly-decorated, served with distinction in three field offices, and received many awards and recognition from the FBI. Pete was selected to be one of the original ‘profilers’ for the FBI, perhaps the FBI’s most famed unit. Before his retirement, he was named the National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Following his retirement, he accepted a position as an Associate Professor and Department Chair of a college Criminal Justice program. Having now retired from that, Pete and his wife Nancy live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
- Photography was provided by Peter Klismet and is used with permission.
- I received a PDF copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.