Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent
An Alice man and his two sons, one of whom is a Premont police officer, left a New Hampshire home that is the center of a standoff between federal agents and a group of tax protesters, after they had a disagreement with the leader of the protest group.
Jose Gonzalez and his son Romeo Gonzalez left the home on June 24, and were followed by Jose's other son, Cirino "Reno" Gonzalez, on June 25. The home, located on a 100-acre estate in Plainfield, N.H., is owned by Ed and Elaine Brown.
The Browns, who in April were sentenced to more than five years in prison after they were convicted of multiple charges related to tax evasion, have refused to surrender to federal marshals and are currently living with several supporters in the home.
They have repeatedly threatened to kill anyone who attempts to arrest them.
Alice native Reno Gonzalez joined the Browns in the standoff in May, and Jose Gonzalez, who has expressed his support for the tax protest, drove from Alice to New Hampshire with his son Romeo Gonzalez, a Premont police officer, last week to visit Reno.
While driving home June 26, Jose Gonzalez explained in a telephone interview that Ed Brown had ordered all three of the men to leave his home when they questioned some aspects of the standoff. Specifically, Jose Gonzalez said, the men questioned the lack of security in the home and a lack of preparation to defend against an armed assault, should federal agents raid the home.
"It's a beautiful home, but it is not designed to fend off attack," Jose Gonzalez said. "We suggested putting some plywood up over windows and simply closing off unnecessary rooms."
Jose Gonzalez said Brown was outraged at the suggestions, and immediately demanded the three men leave his home. Jose Gonzalez questioned why Brown would provoke an attack he was not prepared to defend against, and said he believed Brown had his own motivations in the standoff not related to the tax argument.
"Ed Brown repeatedly has said in interviews and to the media that he will not be taken alive. But yet, he doesn't seem to be doing anything to make anybody believe that he cares about people inside the house surviving any sort of attack. And at the same time he's provoking an attack," Jose Gonzalez said. "I think Ed Brown has no intention of dying for this cause. I think his intention is to be the sole survivor of some sort of attack at his estate, from which he will gain political power."
Jose Gonzalez said he had much more productive discussions in the home with Brown supporter Randy Weaver, a survivor of the 1992 "Ruby Ridge" raid by federal authorities in which Weaver's wife and son were killed.
"He's a great guy, just a regular guy," Jose Gonzalez said. "He seems like an old man who is tired of putting up with a lot of legal nonsense. He's frustrated, but he doesn't seem violent whatsoever."
Jose Gonzalez said he had no trouble interacting with Weaver, who has been linked with white supremacist groups, but he did get strange racial comments from other supporters of the Browns.
"People would walk up to us and say, 'Yeah, I've got nothing against you legal Mexicans, it's the illegals that we don't like,'" Gonzalez said.
Despite that experience, Gonzalez said he believed many of those who have supported the Browns, particularly those who communicated with Reno on the Internet, will join them in backing away from the Browns but still continue the protest.
"I would stick my neck out and say most of the people who were supporters of the Browns were really supporters of Cirino," Jose Gonzalez said. "They were supporting the Browns because Cirino got them involved in the cause."