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Date: February 22, 2010 09:05AM
Man crashes plane into US tax office
AUSTIN, Texas—A pilot slammed his small plane into a seven-story building that
housed the local office of the Internal Revenue Service Thursday, apparently
killing himself and one agency employee, in what federal officials described as
a deliberate suicide attack amid a long-running tax dispute.
Investigators are looking into whether the pilot, 53-year-old Andrew Joseph
Stack, also set his house on fire before taking off in his single-engine Piper
Dakota around 9:40 a.m. local time.
Officials said they were evaluating an antigovernment manifesto posted on the
Internet earlier Thursday, signed "Joe Stack," which suggested he
planned the crash. "Violence not only is the answer, it is the only
answer," the author wrote toward the end of a tirade against the IRS posted
at 9:12 a.m. on a Web site registered to Mr. Stack. He described himself as a
contract software engineer.
By late Thursday night, emergency crews had found two bodies in the wreckage,
the Associated Press reported. Authorities said earlier that the pilot who
crashed into the building was presumed dead and that one worker in the building
was missing. Thirteen people were injured, including two who remained
hospitalized for critical injuries. More than 100 IRS employees work at the
Officials labeled the crash a criminal, not terrorist, attack. "I consider
this a criminal act by a lone individual," said Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Still, the North American Aerospace Defense Command launched two F-16 fighter
aircraft to patrol the air after the crash. Spokesman Jamie Graybeal called it
"a prudent precaution and consistent with our response to recent similar
The White House said President Barack Obama was briefed on the plane crash after
The crash came less than an hour after an explosion ripped through Mr. Stack's
two-story red brick house in a subdivision a few miles from the site of the
crash, neighbors said. The house was quickly engulfed in flames and was gutted
by the fire.
Mr. Stack's family declined to comment, according to police officers stationed
at a house across the street from the burned-out home. According to government
records, Mr. Stack bought a house in Austin in 2007 and was married in July of
that year to Sheryl Mann.
In the 3,200-word manifesto, posted on the Web site Embeddedart.com, the author,
who identified himself as "Joe Stack," described himself as a recently
married, struggling, contract software engineer who left Los Angeles, where he
couldn't find work, but didn't have much better luck in Austin.
The author complained bitterly about the IRS, blaming the agency for eroding his
retirement savings and causing him financial troubles for years.
Because of his expenses and lack of income, Mr. Stack wrote, he didn't file a
tax return, prompting an IRS audit that cost him $10,000. He wrote that he had
other problems involving "Sheryl's unreported income."
"I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable
double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid
draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political
thugs and their mindless minions for what they are," the author wrote.
"Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my
pound of flesh and sleep well," he wrote in conclusion, signing the
posting, "Joe Stack (1956-2010)." The Web site was taken down on
Thursday afternoon after a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
according to the president of the Web-hosting service.
The plane crash sent a plume of dark smoke into the air and caused highway
shutdowns about 10 miles north of the state capitol. Witnesses said they saw the
plane rapidly approaching the office building, one of four seven-story buildings
with black windows, in an office park which sits next to a six-lane corridor
near a high-end shopping center.
Matt Downs, a software salesman with offices about a quarter of a mile away,
said the plane banked at high speed with the engine at full throttle. It hit
between the second and third floors.
Alan Fletcher, who was working in an adjacent building, ran into the building
and encountered shattered glass everywhere and dazed employees emerging from the
"The whole building shook; it felt like a car hit our building," said
Camille Ziegelhofer, who works at a software company in a nearby building.
Richard Lee, an IRS manager, said the explosion blew out the windows and knocked
him to the floor, bruising his back. He helped others in the building get out,
he said, but couldn't get to part of his floor because of neck-high flames.