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Tape Raises Questions About Investigation

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article on death of David Chain
MONITOR has obtained a copy of the audio portion of an Earth First! tape that allegedly records Pacific Lumber logger A.E. Ammons threatening forest activists less than an hour before activist David "Gypsy" Chain was killed by a tree cut by the Ammons.

Marking the first time that an unedited version of the tape has been available to the public in any media, the poor quality recording exactly follows a transcript that was released by Earth First! at a press conference on the day following Chain's September 17th death. Their transcript is included below to make the recording easier to follow.

Should Ammons be charged with manslaughter?
Although Monitor has already published an excerpt of the transcript with much of the profanity removed, we feel that it is important to present the unedited audio of this recording, complete with obscenities screamed by a man alleged by EF! to be Ammons.

We realize that presenting an uncensored tape and transcript may be controversial; some readers may consider publishing material like this little better than publishing lurid content of the Starr Report. But listening to the tape makes apparent the high-strung emotions of the man alleged to be Ammons. The logger's intentions at the time -- as well as his mental (and physical) state -- are among the pivotal issues in this case.

In coming weeks, three important questions must be determined:

  • Should Ammons be charged with manslaughter? Did the logger intentionally drop trees in the directions of activists? Did he earlier threaten -- or attempt -- to kill Chain or other activists?

  • Is the Humboldt Sheriff conducting a proper investigation? Besides being sued by members of Earth First! for pepper- spray- in- the- eyes civil rights violations, there are other reasons to question the objectivity of local authorities. In the Saturday, September 26 inspection of the death site, Ammons was part of the Pacific Lumber's investigative team -- hardly the way most manslaughter suspects are usually treated by police.

  • Is Pacific Lumber liable for Chain's death? Earth First! has long claimed that PL encourages violence against protesters. If true, lawyer Jay Moller's letter to the county DA points out that there is legal precedent that a corporation and high level employees can be charged and convicted of negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

There are other reasons we feel that the public needs to hear this recording; we have a First Amendment right to know if justice is being served, and the press has a matching obligation to provide the information needed.

But sadly, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the major regional daily newspaper often accused of pro-timber bias, has consistently told only one side of the story. Details are omitted that might question the objectivity of the Humboldt sheriff's office or reflect badly upon Pacific Lumber; at the same time, the newspaper has scrounged for every opportunity to present Earth First! as being culpable in Chain's death. (As only a single example, the PD incorrectly stated that activists blocked investigators from visiting the death scene on September 25. In truth, the investigators decided it was too late in the day to trek to the remote site, and rescheduled for the flowing day. Other media correctly explained this; only PD reporter Mike Geniella parroted the false claim of PL President John Campbell that environmentalists stopped the investigators.)

I welcome your opinions on the release of this material; e-mail

-- Jeff Elliott, Editor

"I'll make sure I got a tree comin' this way!"
To listen to this recording, you must have a copy of Real Audio installed on your computer.

The Earth First! transcript explains that the tape was recorded by Zoe Zalia and Mike McCurdy on the morning of September 17, about one hour before David Chain was killed. The transcript claims that Ammons is running downhill after the activists and screaming.

The voice alleged to be Ammons is shown in italics.

The other voice is supposed to be Earth First! activist Erik Eisenberg, shown in regular text. Inaudible sections are marked as [ ... ]



Zoe Zalia: Here we go. There's a clearcut right ahead of us. This is what it looks like after they clearcut. In the background you can see what it looks like before they clearcut

You fuckin' cocksuckers [ ... ] in the trees and let the fuckin' people who don't know what's goin' on go to fuckin' jail. We had patience yesterday. I stopped yesterday!


Get the fuck out of here! You've got me hot enough now to fuck!

We don't want to cause you any problems.

You already have! So get out of here! You cocksuckers! I mean it!

When CDF comes out here they'll tell you to stop.

When the motherfucker shows up and tells me to stop, I'll stop!

... work ... Well we should give 'em a chance to show up.

Why the fuck weren't they here early this morning?

They were here early this morning?

I said, "Why weren't they here early this morning!"

Because they're in the company's pocket. So now...

They're in the company's pocket? That's why they're fuckin' with us everyday, yeah?

They're not fuckin' with you everyday, otherwise they would be out here this morning. That's the thing.

Get outta here! Otherwise I'll fuckin', I'll make sure I got a tree comin' this way!

Alright, well let's not talk about that. You know we're not gonna...


[ ... ]

That's all I heard out of you motherfuckers yesterday!

[ ... ]

(Another logger) Why don't you go over there and harass the other fuckin' crew?

[ ... ]

Why don't you get outta this fuckin' plan and go to the fuckin' trees that ain't been approved! We don't cut anything that ain't been approved, otherwise we go to fuckin' jail for it!

[ ... ]

Where you cocksuckers belong for being out here and fuckin' with us!

[ ... ]

Oh, fuck! I wish I had my fuckin' pistol! I guess I'm gonna just start packin' that motherfucker in here. 'Cause I can only be nice so fuckin' long. Go get my saw, I'm gonna start fallin' into this fuckin' draw!

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Albion Monitor October 6, 1998 (

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