The longest armed standoff in American history recently came to a close in Henderson County, Texas, and it ended without a shot being fired.
The standoff began in 1999, when John Joe Gray, of Henderson County, was charged with assaulting a public servant during a traffic stop.
Gray, now 66, claimed he had a God-given right to be carrying a pistol without a concealed carry license at the time. When the state trooper tried to arrest him, Gray resisted. He later admitted to biting the officer.
Rather than returning to court to stand trial, Gray holed up inside his 47-acre ranch in Trinidad, Texas, with a cache of weapons, support from his family and the promise of violence to anyone who trespassed.
“If they come out after us, bring extra body bags,” he told ABC News in 2000. “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”
The case against Gray ended quietly more than a year ago, but nobody involved seemed to know. A district attorney in neighboring Anderson County ended the case against Gray when he retired in December 2014, but neither Gray nor the Henderson County Sherrif’s Office were notified until last week.
Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt seemed more than ready to let the case drop. When asked why he didn’t go after Gray, Nutt said it was to prevent his deputies from being killed.
“It wasn’t worth it,” Nutt told KHOU. “Joe Gray has been in prison out there himself, in my opinion, for 14 years.”
The view from the gate of John Joe Gray's compound in East Texas pic.twitter.com/6MsinpRYNt
— Manny Fernandez (@mannyNYT) January 8, 2016
Over the years, few journalists have been able to contact Gray on his ranch.
The property is guarded by Gray’s fiercely protective family and friends, and it has been next to impossible to get near the family.
Even though he is now a free man, Gray still hasn’t left the ranch.