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Subscriber Exclusive Eric Mark-Matthew Allport haunted by past

Ruby Ridge echoes in deadly Madison Heights FBI shootout

Madison Heights — The Metro Detroit man killed during a shootout with FBI agents Friday served an 11-year prison sentence for shooting at two police officers, was an adherent of an anti-government movement and played a minor role in the infamous Ruby Ridge standoff, one of the darkest chapters in federal law enforcement history.

The troubled life of Madison Heights resident Eric Mark-Matthew Allport, 43, started to emerge as details about what led to the fatal shooting remained shrouded in secrecy and as believers of the right-leaning anti-government Boogaloo movement hailed Allport as a member and martyr.

FBI officials have not revealed exactly how Allport was killed during a shootout with agents who were executing an arrest warrant for a federal weapons offense in the parking lot of a Texas Roadhouse in Madison Heights. The Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office said Allport died of multiple gunshot wounds and classified his death as a homicide.

Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue canvassing the parking lot at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Madison Heights on Saturday after Eric Allport was killed in a gunfight the previous night.
Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue canvassing the parking lot at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Madison Heights on Saturday after Eric Allport was killed in a gunfight the previous night.
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

The shooting, which left an FBI agent wounded, served as a violent end to Allport's life 28 years after federal agents, including an FBI sharpshooter, shot and killed Allport's friends and neighbors on a remote mountaintop in Idaho. The deadly Ruby Ridge standoff has served as a rallying cry for white nationalists and inspired the 1995 domestic terror attack by Michigan native Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.

Eric Allport
Eric Allport
Julie Covert, still from YouTube video

Allport's former partner, Rachel Charnley, said he appeared to have turned his life around after leaving prison for a separate shooting and moving to Michigan six years ago. He ran a dog-training business, got married last month and his pregnant wife is expected to give birth later this month, Charnley said.

"He had a love-hate relationship with the police," said Charnley, who started K9 Heights Dog Training with Allport four years ago. "I didn't think in a million years he would revert to this."

An FBI spokeswoman, federal prosecutor and court officials declined to release a copy of the sealed arrest warrant and criminal case against Allport or explain why they tried arresting a suspect with a violent history at a restaurant in public. Madison Heights police rejected a Freedom of Information Act request from The Detroit News, and it's unclear whether the federal investigation was focused solely on Allport or if there are additional targets of the investigation.

The government's unwillingness to discuss details of the shooting and investigation comes at a time of increased scrutiny of law enforcement conduct nationwide and shootings by officers.

Rachel Charnley, Allport's business partner
He had a love-hate relationship with the police. I didn't think in a million years he would revert to this.

“With agent-involved shootings, the FBI gets very tight-lipped very quick,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute in New York.

“Unfortunately, the FBI and Department of Justice take their time with those investigations, and I think that the lack of transparency, and in particular, timely transparency, sometimes undermines the public trust even though in many of these cases the evidence is compelling that the agents did no wrong," German said.

Ruby Ridge to Metro Detroit

In this Sept. 1, 1992, file photo, media members and federal agents tour the outside of Randy Weaver's home near Naples, Idaho.
In this Sept. 1, 1992, file photo, media members and federal agents tour the outside of Randy Weaver's home near Naples, Idaho.
Gary Stewart, AP

Allport was born in Michigan but spent his teenage years in rural Idaho with his mother, Judy, and father, Bill Grider. In the early 1990s, they lived in a home near Ruby Ridge, a mountainous area 30 miles south of the Canadian border.

Their neighbor was Randy Weaver, a white separatist who moved his family to the remote mountaintop. The family included wife Vicki and 14-year-old son Sammy, who was the same age as Allport in 1992.

Allport and his parents were friends with the Weavers, occasionally delivering groceries to the family's remote cabin, sometimes in a homemade burlap sack strapped to the Grider family dog Rebel, according to news coverage at the time.

“The Griders lived in a cabin near the Weavers and were known to share philosophical views similar to those held by the Weavers,” according to a Justice Department review of the Ruby Ridge siege.

Deputy U.S. Marshals enlisted the Griders to help deliver messages to Randy Weaver about a court date for a pending firearms charge.

Weaver refused to surrender, leading to an 11-day siege with federal agents in August 1992. During the siege, Sammy Weaver and a deputy U.S. Marshal were killed during a shootout and an FBI sharpshooter killed Vicki Weaver.

Jess Walter, a reporter and author who wrote a book about the siege, "Every Knee Shall Bow," remembers Eric Allport and his family.

This is the last photograph of Vicki Weaver before she was killed by an FBI sniper in the Ruby Ridge standoff.
This is the last photograph of Vicki Weaver before she was killed by an FBI sniper in the Ruby Ridge standoff.
Wikimedia Commons, The Detroit News

"He would have been friends with the Weaver’s kids Sara (16) and Sammy, especially," Walter told The Detroit News.

The siege left a big impact on Allport.

"He got caught up with the drama and was not happy with all of that," Charnley told The News. "Obviously, any sort of event like that would be a major impact on anyone's life."

Guns played a recurring role in Allport's life.

Bill Grider restrains his wife who is yelling at members of the government forces at the Ruby Ridge standoff in 1992.
Jesse Tinsley, Spokesman-Review

His parents were widely quoted by news outlets covering the Ruby Ridge aftermath, including a story in the Dallas Morning News in fall 1992.

"Less than a month after the shootings, Mrs. Grider relaxed on her couch with a pistol strapped into her shoulder holster," the article read. "Her 15-year-old son, Eric, sat on a nearby chair, carrying a holstered pistol on his left hip. His father, Mr. Grider, was unarmed. But a rifle leaned against the wall next to the front door and a loaded pistol was within easy reach behind his recliner.

"I'm all for white separatism," Bill Grider was quoted as saying. "I'm all for Black separatism. You tell somebody you're a white separatist, and bingo, they start saying things like we've got loaded guns sitting by our doors. Well, what the hell. Why can't we have loaded guns sitting by our doors?"

Almost three decades later, Judy and Bill Grider live in Metro Detroit. They could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Randy Weaver and his daughter, Sara, who survived the siege, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In this Dec. 16, 1997, file photo, Randy Weaver leaves the Boundary County courthouse in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, with his friend, Linda Thompson, after Weaver testified in the probable cause hearing of FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi.
In this Dec. 16, 1997, file photo, Randy Weaver leaves the Boundary County courthouse in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, with his friend, Linda Thompson, after Weaver... In this Dec. 16, 1997, file photo, Randy Weaver leaves the Boundary County courthouse in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, with his friend, Linda Thompson, after Weaver testified in the probable cause hearing of FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi.
Jeff T. Green, AP

The team of FBI agents involved in the attempted Allport arrest likely knew about his background and ties to Ruby Ridge, said Andrew Arena, former special agent in charge of the FBI office in Detroit. 

"They’re going to know as much about a person as they can," Arena said. "And that goes into how you formulate your arrest plan or search plan. You want as much intelligence as you can get."

During Arena's tenure leading the FBI office in Detroit, four agents shot and killed Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah during a raid at a Dearborn warehouse in 2009.

In that case, Abdullah was shot 20 times and few details were released for almost a year, leading to rumors and speculation within the Muslim community.

The shooting led to an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General's Office, which ruled the shooting justified.

The years after Ruby Ridge, meanwhile, were filled with trouble for Allport. At 17, he was convicted of aggravated robbery and later moved to Fort Collins, Colo.

The is an aerial view of the cabin of Randy Weaver and his family on Ruby Ridge in North Idaho taken in March 1992.
The is an aerial view of the cabin of Randy Weaver and his family on Ruby Ridge in North Idaho taken in March 1992.
Shawn Jacobson, Spokesman-Review

In November 2002, a decade after Ruby Ridge, Allport was driving in Loveland, Colo., three days before Thanksgiving, when he was pulled over for a traffic offense.

Loveland Police Officers Bobbie Jo Pastecki and Aaron Belk learned there was a pending warrant for Allport's arrest and tried to take him into custody, Larimer County Assistant District Attorney Mitch Murray told The News.

"He struggled and pulled out gun and fired a shot before they could completely subdue him," Murray said.

The officers were trailing Allport as he left a known drug house, Pastecki, 50, told The News.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents stand next to the outbuilding located near the Randy Weaver home near Naples, Idaho, Sept. 1, 1992. The building is where agents found the body of Samuel Weaver during the 11-day standoff which ended with the surrender of Randy Weaver to federal authorities.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents stand next to the outbuilding located near the Randy Weaver home near Naples, Idaho, Sept. 1, 1992. The building is... Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents stand next to the outbuilding located near the Randy Weaver home near Naples, Idaho, Sept. 1, 1992. The building is where agents found the body of Samuel Weaver during the 11-day standoff which ended with the surrender of Randy Weaver to federal authorities.
Gary Stewart, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Almost 20 years later, she remembers the pop of Allport's semi-automatic gun.

"It was a pretty hell-raising event," she said. "He had a gun in his waistband that neither Belk or I saw. It was a little bit surreal. I heard the gun go off, it sounded like a firecracker. It went from 'This is November, nobody should be lighting off fireworks' to 'oh my God, he's got a gun.'" 

During the struggle, Allport had one hand on his own weapon and was gripping Belk's weapon.

The officers never had a clear shot at Allport. Eventually, he gave up.

"I remember him being super high," Pastecki said. "I am fully convinced he was going to shoot us, but his gun malfunctioned."

Allport was later convicted of receiving and concealing stolen property, concealed weapons and aggravated assault and sentenced in 2003 to 25 years in state prison in Colorado. 

Pastecki assumed he was still in prison until learning this week about Allport's death.

"I was kind of surprised," she said, "but not really surprised."

While incarcerated, Allport started training dogs as part of a prison education program.

He was released in 2014 and eventually moved to Michigan while on parole, according to Chris Gautz, a Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman.

In early 2016, Allport and Charnley started K9 Heights Dog Training in a brick Tudor-style house near Lincoln Avenue and I-75 in Madison Heights.

Allport trained dogs to work in drug detection and helped prison inmates train dogs.

Eric Allport starred in his dog-training company's videos posted on YouTube. (Video: YouTube)

"We had clients that were troopers, and he had a lot to do with prison guards there," Charnley said. "He was always respectful and knew what he had done in the past was wrong. He had no animosity."

Allport was focused on complying with parole, his former partner said.

"He was extremely careful," Charnley said. "He made sure there was no alcohol in the house. I knew that he had issues in the past with the arrest and that it involved firearms. I know he liked them, but he made a point of never having them in the house while on parole.

"That is why this is a little surprising because he was very much on the straight and narrow," said Charnley, who today co-owns a dog-training company in Virginia. "He wanted to get his life together and make the business succeed."

'A Boogaloo Boy'

Mike Dunn, a self-described Boogaloo Boy from Virginia, posted a YouTube video Monday talking about Allport.

“Well, the feds have done it again, this time killing Eric Mark-Matthew Allport," Dunn said. “As far as I know, he was a Boogaloo Boy. He embodied our ideology, our beliefs. He lived with liberty on his mind and they killed him.”

In this April 18, 2020, file photo, members of the Boogaloo movement, attend a demonstration against the lockdown over concern about COVID-19 at the State House in Concord, N.H. It's a fringe movement with roots in an online meme culture steeped in irony and dark humor. But experts warn that the anti-government Boogaloo movement has attracted a dangerous element of far-right extremists.
Michael Dwyer, AP, file

Boogaloo is a loosely organized movement that brings together people with different ideologies, everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to white supremacists and anti-government extremists, said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

"Without knowing the exact details of what happened, it does follow a pattern of what we have seen in past few months, which is relatively heavily armed, anti-government extremists who have interactions with some form of local, state or federal law enforcement and that action becomes deadly," Lewis said.

Allport was killed seven months after Maryland resident Duncan Lemp, 21, was shot and killed by police as officers served a search warrant at his family’s home. His death spawned a hashtag campaign within the movement.

The social media posts honoring Allport are similar, Lewis said.

"It does appear that (Allport) is being held up as one of those individuals, publicly, and to be sure, privately, as a rallying cry," Lewis said.

Awaiting answers

It is reasonable to expect the FBI to release a preliminary report about the shooting in a month, said Keith Corbett, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor who was chief of the federal Organized Crime Strike Force in Detroit. 

Investigators need time to analyze ballistics, determine who fired first and pinpoint how many agents shot Allport, the lawyer said.

“There is a lot of information to gather to put them in a position to give the most accurate report they can,” Corbett said, “which obviously will be colored in their favor.”

But he cannot imagine why prosecutors have not released a copy of the arrest warrant, which could provide more details about the nature of the case against Allport. 

“By revealing the complaint, it might warn other co-defendants that the government is looking for them and they might flee,” Corbett said.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

Staff Writer Mike Martindale and Associated Press contributed.