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Feb 19th, 2010

BREAKING NEWS . . . February 18, 2010 . . . 11:31 a.m. CT

Small Plane Crashes into Texas Office Building

A small plane crashes into the seven-story Echelon office building housing IRS employees in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010. (Photo credit: Jay Janner / Austin-American Statesman via AP)

The Associated Press via
February 18, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — A small plane crashed Thursday into a multistory office building in Austin, causing a fire and sending black smoke billowing from the seven-story structure, officials said.

The Associated Press, citing what it described as a “source,” said the crash didn’t appear to be terrorism. …

[Commentary: The building reportedly houses one or more federal agencies, so the possibility exists that this incident could be an intentional act.]

The plane hit the Echelon Building, which is located on a major highway in north Austin.

Several fires were burning from the second to the fourth floors, KXAN reported. Crews used ladder trucks and hoses to battle the blazes.

The IRS, CIA and FBI all have offices in the complex where the building is located, though it was not clear if they are in the building that was hit. The FBI said its office was not in the building that was struck. …

A witness who described himself as a small-aircraft pilot told KXAN-TV that he witnessed the accident from the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.

“It was really low,” he said. “He brushed along a parking lot light … (and) shot right across the road. It was going really fast. … It sounded like the engine was on full blast. Then it whacked in-between the first and second floor.” …

Tucker Thurman was driving to work when he said he saw a small plane flying very low over the highway. He said he saw it then bank heavily to the right before heading into the building. …

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.



Officials: Texas Plane Crash Targeted Feds

‘Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different’


Joe Stack’s final act (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 18, 2010) — As investigators and journalists raced to piece together a picture of the suspected pilot who crashed into a Texas building early Thursday, a story of growing frustration and rage emerged. NBC’s Pete Williams reports. (02:01)

The Associated Press via
February 18, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas – “If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, ‘Why did this have to happen?’ The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time.”

So began a lengthy, rambling anti-government Web message believed posted by a Texas man suspected of crashing his small plane into an office building housing IRS employees.

The man, identified by federal law enforcement officials as Joseph Stack, 53, was a software engineer who had a long-running grudge with the Internal Revenue Service, whom he referred to in the screed as “thugs and plunderers.”

The Web message was dated Thursday and signed “Joe Stack (1956-2010).”

Hours after posting it, Stack set fire to his home, drove to a municipal airport, got into his single-engine Piper Cherokee and deliberately crashed it into a multistory office building, authorities said. …

Slide presentation
Image: Firefighters work on putting out a fire at the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Tx

At least two people were seriously injured and a third person — a federal employee who worked in the building — was unaccounted for, fire officials said.

The crash caused a raging fire that sent black smoke billowing from the seven-story Echelon Building. The fire was extinguished hours later.

At an afternoon news conference, Austin police Chief Art Acevedo said the crash “appears to be an intentional act.”

“It would appear to be by a sole individual, and it appears this individual was targeting federal offices inside that building,” Acevedo said.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said in a statement that the crash was “a cowardly act of domestic terrorism.” The police chief, however, said he preferred to describe it as “a criminal act by a lone individual.”

The FBI was taking over the investigation.

About 190 IRS employees work in the building, and IRS spokesman Richard C. Sanford said the agency was trying to account for all of its workers.

Violence ‘the only answer’

The pilot, listed in FAA and property records as Andrew Joseph Stack III of Austin and identified by law enforcement sources as Joseph Stack, apparently had a long-running dispute with the IRS.

Image: Joseph Stack
Associated Press
In a statement posted on the Web early Thursday morning, Joseph Stack appeared to blame the IRS for the loss of tens of thousands in savings and retirement money over the years.

A long message posted on a Web site registered to Stack outlined a litany of problems with the IRS and said violence “is the only answer.”

The Web site was taken offline Thursday afternoon by the hosting company at the request of the FBI.

A senior law enforcement official told NBC the saga began Thursday morning, when police received a domestic disturbance call at Stack’s house, about six miles from the crash site. When they responded, they discovered that the man had lit a fire in his house and fled. They said he went to the Georgetown Municipal Airport, got into his small plane and took off.

A short time later, the plane crashed into the office building about 30 miles away. …

House fire

Elbert Hutchins, who lives one house away from Stack’s home in a quiet, tree-lined middle-class neighborhood, said the house caught fire about 9:15 a.m. He said a woman and her teenage daughter drove up before firefighters arrived.

“They both were very, very distraught,” said Hutchins, a retiree who said he didn’t know the family well. “‘That’s our house!’ they cried, ‘That’s our house!'” …

The Echelon Building is next to a major highway in north Austin, and the crash started fires on several floors of the hulking black building. Dozens of windows were blown out and vehicles traveling on a nearby highway paused to look.

Thirteen people were treated at the scene and two people were taken to a hospital with serious injuries, Austin fire officials said. Their condition wasn’t immediately known.

A third person, a federal employee, was unaccounted for. “The prospects are not very positive for that person,” Acevedo said.

Image: Joseph Stack's house
Thao Nguyen / AP
Authorities say Joseph Stack set fire to his home before crashing his plane.


Pilot’s background

According to California Secretary of State records, Stack had a troubled business history, twice starting software companies that ultimately were suspended by the state’s Franchise Tax Board.

He started Software Systems Service Corp. in Lincoln, Calif., but that business license was suspended in 2004 for nonpayment of back taxes totaling $1,153, KCRA-TV in Sacramento reported. Another company, Prowless Engineering Inc. was suspended in 2000 for failure to file a 1994 tax return, according to KCRA.

Stack listed himself as chief executive officer of both companies.

According to records, Stack apparently moved to the Austin area around 2003 and ran Embedded Art, a small, independent software firm specializing in “process control and automation” and “complex software engineering development tasks.”

In his 3,200-word statement posted on the company’s Web site early Thursday morning and later taken down, Stack appeared to blame the IRS for the loss of tens of thousands in savings and retirement money over the years.

Administrative records show the Web site was registered to Joe Stack of San Marcos, Texas, in 2006.

‘Unthinkable atrocities’

Stack said his “nightmare” with the federal government dated to the early 1980s.

In one passage, Stack writes: “That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their ‘freedom’ … and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.”

He also wrote: “Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?”

Toward the end, he wrote, “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.” …

The IRS Web site said an office of its EP Team Audit Program is located in the building where the plane crashed. The group, known as EPTA, examines employee benefit plans with 2,500 or more participants, according to the Web site. …

Act of desperation shocks Austin (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 18, 2010) — Texas officials are continuing to investigate the apparently deliberate plane crash early Thursday that injured more than a dozen people — two seriously. NBC’s Janet Shamlian reports. (00:49)

Played in country band

Stack lived in a 2,500-square-foot house in North Austin with wife Sheryl and her daughter, who is about 12, the Austin Statesman reported, citing friends, neighbors and county records.

He played bass in the Billy Eli Band [link added], an Austin alt-country band, according to friends.

Michael Cerza, who played drums in the band with Stack, told the Statesman, “My impression of Joe was a kind, quiet, not at all brooding or taciturn person.”

“I didn’t sense anything boiling under the surface. There was no indication in his actions or his words that he would harm anyone.

Stack’s wife and daughter were believed to be in a neighbors house being assisted by the Red Cross. When reporters went to the door, an FBI agent answered, the newspaper reported. …


Related content

Read Stack’s full statement posted on Web site

Newsweek: Is anti-government violence on the rise?

Newsweek: A history of recent anti-tax violence


Anger in America: Topical reports on this site

Condemning Beck and Bachmann (Nov. 19, 2009)

Anger in America (Oct. 31, 2009)

Economy and Obama Volatile Mix (April 16, 2009)

Obama, Economy Fuel Hate Groups (Feb. 28, 2009)

Obama Racist Backlash (Nov. 16, 2008)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 19, 2009

‘Craziest Interview’ in U.S. History


Bachmann strikes (out) again (MSNBC, Feb. 18, 2009) — Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., took a new stand against President Barack Obama when she claimed the stimulus bill was just a payoff for those who supported him throughout the election. The Nation’s Chris Hayes discusses. (07:14)

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that some Republican politicians were taking credit in their home districts for stimulus money coming their way, even though they voted against it, but that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann went the extra mile by claiming the stimulus bill was nothing but a payoff for those who supported President Barack Obama during his election campaign.

11 Responses to “Suspicious Plane Crash in Texas”
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    […] Hatred of the government motivated software engineer Joe Stack last month to fly a small plane into a building in Austin, Texas housing Internal Revenue Service offices, killing an IRS employee and himself. […]

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    […] Recent news events — including the crashing of a plane into an IRS office in Texas by a tax protestor, a torrent of threats against Congressional leaders, and the takedown of the bizarre but well-connected Hutaree militia — have substantially vindicated Homeland Security’s judgments of last year. […]

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