Gordon Kahl was an anti-government tax protester who was killed in Lawrence County, Arkansas, in 1983, in a showdown with law officers. Reared in North Dakota, Kahl was a World War II veteran who owned a farm in North Dakota after the war and later worked in the Texas oil fields. In the 1960s he became a tax protester, writing a letter to the I.R.S. stating that he would no longer pay taxes to what he considered the communist federal government. In the 1970s, he organized a Texas chapter of the Posse Comitatus, a right-wing, anti-government and anti-Semitic group. In the mid seventies, he was convicted of willful refusal to pay taxes and was sentenced to two years in prison. Released on parole after less than a year in prison, Kahl became involved in the township movement, a version of the "sovereign citizenship" belief that citizens are not answerable to county, state, and especially federal authority but only to common law administered at the most fundamental level. On February 13, 1983, as law officers attempted to arrest Kahl for violation of his probation while he was leaving a township meeting near Medina, South Dakota, he and his son became involved in a shootout with the officers, leaving two of the officers dead and Kahl's son wounded. Taking the vehicle of a Medina law officer, Kahl fled to Texas and then to Arkansas.
About the first of June 1983, authorities received a tip that Kahl was holed up near Smithville in northwest Lawrence County on property where fellow tax protester Leonard Ginter and his wife were living. On June 3, law officers surrounded the Ginter house, and when Lawrence County sheriff Gene Matthews approached the house, shots were exchanged. The FBI SWAT team accompanying Matthews then opened fire, pouring hundreds of rounds of lead into the house. The house was then set on fire. Kahl was later found dead in the rubble, reportedly killed by a single shot before being burned. Matthews was mortally wounded by Kahl and later died on the operating table.
Right-wing extremists still today insist that Kahl was killed in cold blood by government thugs and that the house was set on fire to cover up the murder. Some maintain that Sheriff Matthews was also a victim of the government officers rather than being killed by Kahl as officially reported.