Agencies, Counties Rally to Offer Support
By Ector County Commissioner Freddie Gardner
On Sept. 17, 2010, at 4 p.m., the West Odessa community was in lockdown as a man with ties to an antigovernment group fired at Ector County law enforcement officers. Victor Dewayne White, a secessionist in West Odessa, shot two Ector County sheriff’s deputies and a civilian in a 22-hour standoff. The incident drew a multi-agency coalition of law enforcement. White was well known in the area to be anti-law enforcement; for years he waged his own rebellion against the system and Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson. He claimed connections to white supremacist organizations and links to the antigovernment Republic of Texas (ROT), which claims that Texas is a sovereign nation that was never legally annexed by the United States.
The incident marked the culmination of years of simmering resentment on the part of Victor White. Since the mid-1980’s Victor Dewayne White, a reclusive, 55-year-old, proclaimed Army veteran, lived as a refugee in a makeshift bunker on a 5-acre compound which was littered with trash and abandoned vehicles. The barricade, which he had built, was a large dirt mound with a white cross and a flagpole with an American flag flown upside down, along with trenches where he could go from one fighting position to the other on his acreage near his trailer. He rarely left his home, which had no utility connections; he survived “off the grid.”
According to Donaldson, the standoff began late Friday afternoon when Luke Bedrick, an employee of Whiting Petroleum Corp., went on White’s property accompanied by an Ector County deputy. Bedrick came to speak to White about an oil well on his property to which White had blocked access. The company owns the mineral rights to the land on White’s property. It was later revealed that White thought the oil company was poisoning his water; however, the company was there to assure him they would test the water on his property. As they started to leave, White pulled a gun and starting shooting, hitting the deputy three times as the pair retreated for cover. White later shot another deputy who had arrived on the scene. Deputy Ricky Tijerina was hit once in the shoulder and once in the heel and upper leg. Deputy Sgt. Steve McNeil was shot once in the head; the injury resulted in a fractured skull. Bedrick was shot once in the lower leg from long range. The two Ector County sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized in fair condition, and Bedrick was treated and released from the hospital.
Before moving to a fortified position, White stole the injured deputy’s patrol car, got on the radio, and began threatening the sheriff and speaking about the deputies and his distrust for the government by making political and religious statements and urging the snipers to make him a martyr. During the 22-hour standoff, White sporadically opened gunfire on two Department of Public Safety helicopters hovering above his residence. Throughout the standoff, White fired multiple rounds at officers on the ground. The standoff lasted overnight, with White continuing to shoot at the helicopters until 2 p.m. the following day.
As SWAT team members in an armored vehicle closed in on him, White surrendered outside his trailer after setting his home on fire. White was taken into custody and transported to Medical Center Hospital where he was treated for minor injuries he sustained in the fire. Medical Center Hospital was on limited lockdown during the early part of the standoff. Donaldson asked Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter to hold White in his jail due to the shooting of the Ector County deputies. White was booked into the Midland County Central Detention Center and charged with three counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer and one count of aggravated assault against a public servant with a deadly weapon.
There were more than 150 officers from 35 law enforcement agencies at the crime scene. The Odessa Police Department’s Mobile Unit Command Center joined the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Midland County Sheriff’s Office, DEA agents, FBI agents, University of Texas of the Permian Basin officers, Texas Rangers, and Midland Police Department and Department of Public Safety officials. Other law enforcement officers from the surrounding areas of Andrews, Reeves, Ward and other counties were also assisting. Several armored vehicles, helicopters and SWAT teams were among the resources available. The Ector County traffic personnel set up and manned roadblocks surrounding White’s property as nearby residents were evacuated from their homes. Access to the standoff area was restricted to law enforcement personnel, only. Ector County provided diesel fuel for several law enforcement agencies at the scene. The financial impact to Ector County is yet to be determined.
White has vowed to retaliate against law enforcement by filing a civil lawsuit seeking $175 million from the city of Odessa “for reckless endangerment of due tranquility.”