10 Year Standoff: Sheriff's Waiting Game

"Nightline" visits militant group's barricaded compound in Texas.

ByABC News
February 12, 2010, 1:50 PM

Feb. 12, 2010— -- Just over an hour's drive outside of Dallas, Tex., on 47 acres of fenced-in land on the banks of the Trinity River, America's longest-running law-enforcement standoff is taking place.

Members of a militant group barricaded themselves from the rest of the world in January 2000 and have remained there for 10 years.

John Joe Gray, a self-proclaimed "freedom fighter," is the man at the center of the standoff. The leader of the religious separatist group has warned that any government agents who attempt to remove them from the land should, "bring extra body bags."

Gray would fight to the death if authorities came for him, he said during a 2000 interview with ABC News' John Quinones

"I'm willing to die for it because how else could you live?" Gray said. "You know, what is freedom if -- they can take my land, you know. OK. They can take my life, but they can't take my freedom."

Watch the story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET

Ten years ago was also the last time Keith Tarkington saw his children.

"I haven't been with them all their life, but they still got me in them, you know?" Tarkington said. "I mean, ten years, that's ten Christmases, Easters, birthdays, all this I haven't been with my babies."

Tarkington's two sons, Samuel James and Joe Douglass, were taken by his ex-wife Lisa in April 1999 to the barricaded compound run by Gray -- who is Tarkington's former father-in-law.

Gray is wanted by Texas authorities for allegedly assaulting a police officer. During an altercation at a traffic stop, he allegedly tried to take a state trooper's pistol and bit him.

But Gray, a deeply devout Christian, was already well-known to law enforcement by then for his different -- even extreme -- views of government. He believes government has taken away too many of his God-given rights.

"I've put out literature about the new world order and what's going on," Gray said in an interview with ABC News in 2000. "And I've done that for years down there. And I think I upset a few people. They didn't like it."

Authorities believe Gray might be capable of acting on those views.

"There were things that he had on him that led me to believe that he posed a threat to the safety of people in another city," said Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe, who has been trying to bring Joe Gray to justice for 10 years. "That he was capable of building a bomb that he had plans to make a bomb to blow up a bridge in Dallas and that concerned me."