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Andrew Joseph STACK III






The 2010 Austin suicide attack
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Suicide attack fueled by anti-government hatred
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 18, 2010
Date of birth: 1956
Victim profile: Vernon Hunter, 68 (IRS manager)
Method of murder: Smashing his plane into an IRS building
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Status: Died in the crash the same day

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The 2010 Austin suicide attack occurred on February 18, 2010, when Andrew Joseph Stack III, flying his Piper Dakota, crashed into Building I of the Echelon office complex in Austin, Texas, United States, killing himself and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) manager Vernon Hunter. Thirteen others were injured, two seriously.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) field office was located in a four-story office building, along with other state and federal government agencies and some private businesses on the first floor. Prior to the crash, Stack had posted a suicide note referring to "greed" with the IRS, dated February 18, 2010, to his business website.

Joseph Stack was suspected of setting fire, that morning, to his two-storey North Austin house, which was mostly destroyed, but no others. In the aftermath, people debated the policies of the IRS and appropriate forms of protest. The building was repaired by December 2011. As an impact of the 2010 Austin attack, the IRS spent more than $38.6 million, with $6.4 million spent to recover and resume work at the building, and over $32 million spent to increase security at other IRS sites in the U.S. However, the spending on security changes was questioned as being ineffective.


Approximately an hour before the crash, Stack allegedly set fire to his $230,000 house located on Dapplegrey Lane in North Austin. He then drove to a hangar he rented at Georgetown Municipal Airport, approximately 20 miles to the north. He boarded his single-engine Piper Dakota airplane and took off around 9:45 a.m. Central Standard Time. He indicated to the control tower his flight would be "going southbound, sir." After taking off his final words were "thanks for your help, have a great day."

About ten minutes later his plane descended and collided at full speed into Echelon I, a building containing offices for 190 IRS employees, resulting in a large fireball and explosion. The building is located near the intersection of Research Boulevard (U.S. Route 183) and Mopac Expressway (Loop 1).


The plane was piloted by Andrew Joseph Stack III of the Scofield Farms neighborhood in North Austin, who worked as an embedded software consultant. He grew up in Pennsylvania and had two brothers and two sisters, was orphaned at age four, and spent some time at a Catholic orphanage. He graduated from the Milton Hershey School in 1974 and studied engineering at Harrisburg Area Community College from 1975 to 1977 but did not graduate. His first marriage to Ginger Stack, which ended in divorce, produced a daughter, Samantha Bell. In 2007 Stack had remarried to Sheryl Housh who had a daughter from a previous marriage.

In 1985, Stack, along with his first wife, incorporated Prowess Engineering. In 1994, he failed to file a state tax return. In 1998, the Stacks divorced and a year later his wife filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, citing IRS liabilities totaling nearly $126,000. In 1995, Stack started Software Systems Service Corp, which was suspended in 2004 for non-payment of state taxes. It was revealed in CNN and ABC news broadcasts by another software consultant who testified that the IRS had taken away a tax status for software consultants, which might have set off the incident with Stack.

Stack obtained a pilot's license in 1994 and owned a Velocity Elite XL-RG plane, in addition to the Piper Dakota (aircraft registration N2889D) he flew into the Echelon building. He had been using the Georgetown Municipal Airport for four and a half years and paid $236.25 a month to rent a hangar. There has been speculation that Stack replaced seats on his aircraft with extra drums of fuel prior to the collision.

Stack's accountant confirmed that he was being audited by the IRS for failure to report income at the time of the incident.

Suicide note

On the morning of the crash, Stack posted a suicide note on his website, The HTML source code of the web page shows the letter was composed using Microsoft Word starting two days prior, February 16, at 19:24Z (1:24 p.m. CST). The document also shows that it was saved 27 times with the last being February 18 at 06:42Z (12:42 a.m. CST).

In the suicide note, he begins by expressing displeasure with the government, the bailout of financial institutions, politicians, the conglomerate companies of General Motors, Enron and Arthur Andersen, unions, drug and health care insurance companies, and the Catholic Church. He then describes his life as an engineer; including his meeting with a poor widow who never got the pension benefits she was promised, the effect of the Section 1706 of Tax Reform Act of 1986 on independent contractor engineers, the September 11 attacks airline bailouts that only benefited the airlines but not the suffering engineers and how a CPA he hired seemed to side with the government to take extra tax money from him. His suicide note included criticism of the Federal Aviation Administration, the George W. Bush administration, and a call for violent revolt.

The suicide note also mentions, several times, Stack's having issues with taxes, debt, and the IRS and his having a long-running feud with the organization. While the IRS also has a larger regional office in Austin, the field office located in Echelon I performed tax audits, seizures, investigations and collections.

The suicide note ended with:

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

–Joe Stack (1956-2010), 02/18/2010"


Killed in the incident, along with Joe Stack, was Vernon Hunter, a 68-year-old Revenue Officer Group Manager for the IRS. Thirteen people were reported as injured, two of them critically. Debris from the crash reportedly struck a car being driven on the southbound access road of Route 183 in front of the building, shattering the windshield. Another driver on the southbound access road of Route 183 had his windows and sunroof shattered during the impact, and had debris fall inside his car, yet escaped uninjured. Robin Dehaven, a glass worker and former combat engineer for the United States Army, saw the collision while commuting to his job, and used the ladder on his truck to rescue five people from the building. By coincidence, the Travis County Hazardous Materials Team — an inter-agency group of firefighters from outside the City of Austin — had just assembled for training across the freeway from the targeted building, observed the low and fast flight of Stack's plane, and heard the blast impact. They immediately responded, attacking the fire and initiating search-and-rescue. Several City of Austin fire engines for the area of the Echelon building were already deployed at the fire at Stack's home at the time of the impact.

Stack's North Austin home was mostly destroyed by fire.

Georgetown Municipal Airport was temporarily evacuated while a bomb disposal team searched Stack's abandoned vehicle.

An inspection into the Echelon building's structural integrity was concluded six days after the incident and a preliminary decision was made to repair the building rather than demolish it. Those repairs were substantially complete by December 2011.

Economic costs to IRS

The IRS spent more than $38.6 million because of the 2010 Austin suicide attack.

For the immediate response, document recovery, and to resume operations at the center, the IRS spent USD $6,421,942. Of this amount, USD $3,258,213 was spent on document recovery.

Also, the IRS spent a total of USD $32.3 million to improve IRS building security across the United States, with USD $30.5 million for more security guards. The IRS said, because of the 2010 Austin suicide attack and the emergency plans in place, there was no direct budgetary impact on the IRS’s ability to provide taxpayer services or enforce tax laws.

An additional $1,236,634 was spent on a security risk assessment to be performed by the private Georgia based logistical and engineering services firm Unified Consultants Group, Inc. A July 25, 2012 audit, released shortly after the incident cost analysis, performed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, determined that the contract was mismanaged by the IRS. The security-review process was determined to have had multiple problems, and many of the sites were not inspected by the contractor. The audit placed the blame on the IRS agency's individuals responsible for defining, negotiating, and administering the contract, with potentially 100% of funds being used inefficiently and the security improvements of IRS sites may not have been ineffective.


The United States Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying that the incident did not appear to be linked to organized international terrorist groups. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reaffirmed what Homeland Security said, and that President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident. The President expressed his concern and commended the courageous actions of the first responders. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched two F-16 fighter aircraft from Ellington Airport in Houston, Texas, to conduct an air patrol in response to the crash. That action was reported as standard operating procedure in this situation.

The company hosting, T35 hosting, took Stack's website offline "due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI." Several groups supporting Stack on the social networking website Facebook appeared following the incident and the news of the accompanying manifesto. These were immediately shut down by Facebook staff.

Austin police chief Art Acevedo stated that the incident was not the action of a major terrorist organization. He also cited "some heroic actions on the part of federal employees" that "will be told at the appropriate time."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that it was investigating the incident "as a criminal matter of an assault on a federal officer" and that it was not being considered terrorism at this time.

However, two members of the United States House of Representatives, both of whose districts include the Austin area, made statements to the contrary. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) stated, "Like the larger-scale tragedy in Oklahoma City, this was a cowardly act of domestic terrorism." Mike McCaul (R-Texas), told a reporter that, "it sounds like it [was a terrorist attack] to me." Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also asked the federal government to classify this as an act of terrorism. In a statement on February 19, he said, "Whenever an individual or group attacks civilians in order to make a political statement, that is an act of terror. Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims. If a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism." Georgetown University Professor Bruce Hoffman stated that for this to be considered an act of terrorism, "there has to be some political motive and it has to send a broader message that seeks some policy change. From what I've heard, that doesn't appear to be the case. It appears he was very mad at the [IRS] and this was a cathartic outburst of violence. His motivation was the key." A USA Today headline used the term "a chilling echo of terrorism."

Citing the copy of Joseph Stack's suicide note posted online, liberal blogger Joan McCarter observed on the Daily Kos website that, "Obviously Stack was not a mentally healthy person, and he was embittered at capitalism, including crony capitalism, and health insurance companies and the government." She also stated that Stack could not be connected with the popular Tea Party movement, but argued that the incident "should inject a bit of caution into the anti-government flame-throwers on the right." The website Ace of Spades HQ disputed any connection to the movement and additionally stated Stack was not "right wing", citing Stack's criticism of politicians for not doing anything about health care reform.

In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Joe Stack's adult daughter, Samantha Bell, who now lives in Norway, stated initially that she considered her father to be a hero, because she felt that now people might listen. While she does not agree with his specific actions involving the plane crash, she does agree with his actions about speaking out against "injustice" and "the government." Bell subsequently retracted aspects of her statement, saying her father was "not a hero" and adding, "We are mourning for Vernon Hunter."

Five days after her husband Vernon Hunter's death, Valerie Hunter filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sheryl Mann Stack, Andrew Joseph Stack's widow in District Court. The lawsuit alleges that Sheryl had a duty to "avoid a foreseeable risk of injury to others," including her late husband and failed to do so by not warning others about her late husband. The lawsuit also mentions that Stack was required by law to fly his plane at an altitude 1,000 feet (305 m) above the highest obstacle. At a March 8, 2010 benefit event, Stack's widow, Sheryl publicly offered condolences for the victims of the attack.

Iowa congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) has made several statements regarding Stack including,

"I think if we'd abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn't have a target for his airplane. And I'm still for abolishing the IRS, I've been for it for thirty years and I'm for a national sales tax (in its place)."

Noted libertarian socialist American intellectual Noam Chomsky cited Joe Stack's suicide letter as indicative of some of the public sentiment in the U.S., stated that several of Stack's assertions are accurate or based on real grievances, and urged people to "help" the Joseph Stacks of the world get involved in constructive popular movements instead of letting the Joseph Stacks "destroy themselves, and maybe the world," in order to prevent a process similar to how legitimate and valid popular grievances of the German people in the 1920s and 1930s were manipulated by the Nazis towards violence and away from constructive ends.

The Internal Revenue Service formally designates certain individuals as potentially dangerous taxpayers (PDTs). In response to an inquiry after the attack, an IRS spokesperson declined to state whether Stack had been designated as a PDT.


Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin leaves pilot dead, at least one missing

The Associated Press -

February 18, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A software engineer furious with the Internal Revenue Service launched a suicide attack on the agency Thursday by crashing his small plane into an office building containing nearly 200 IRS employees, setting off a raging fire that sent workers fleeing for their lives.

At least one person in the building was missing.

The FBI tentatively identified the pilot as Joseph Stack. A federal law official said investigators were looking at a long anti-government screed and farewell note that he apparently posted on the Web earlier in the day as an explanation for what he was about to do.

In it, the author cited run-ins he had with the IRS and ranted about the tax agency, government bailouts and corporate America's "thugs and plunderers."

"I have had all I can stand," he wrote in the note, dated Thursday, adding: "I choose not to keep looking over my shoulder at 'big brother' while he strips my carcass."

Stack, 53, also apparently set fire to his house about six miles from the crash site before embarking on the suicide flight, said two law enforcement officials, who like other authorities spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on.

The pilot took off in a single-engine Piper Cherokee from an airport in Georgetown, about 30 miles from Austin, without filing a flight plan. He flew low over the Austin skyline before plowing into the side of the hulking, seven-story, black-glass building just before 10 a.m. with a thunderous explosion that instantly stirred memories of Sept. 11.

Flames shot from the building, windows exploded, a huge pillar of black smoke rose over the city, and terrified workers rushed to get out.

The Pentagon scrambled two F-16 fighter jets from Houston to patrol the skies over the burning building before it became clear that it was the act of a lone pilot, and President Barack Obama was briefed on the crash.

"It felt like a bomb blew off," said Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who was sitting at her desk. "The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran."

Stack was presumed dead, and police said they had not recovered his body. Thirteen people were treated after the crash and two remained in critical condition Thursday evening, authorities said. About 190 IRS employees work in the building.

Gerry Cullen was eating breakfast at a restaurant across the street when the plane struck the building and "vanished in a fireball."

Matt Farney, who was in the parking lot of a nearby Home Depot, said he saw a low-flying plane near some apartments and the office building just before it crashed.

"I figured he was going to buzz the apartments or he was showing off," Farney said. "It was insane. It didn't look like he was out of control or anything."

Sitting at her desk in another building a half-mile from the crash, Michelle Santibanez said she felt vibrations from the crash. She and her co-workers ran to the windows, where they witnessed a scene that reminded them of 9/11, she said.

"It was the same kind of scenario, with window panels falling out and desks falling out and paperwork flying," said Santibanez, an accountant.

The building, situated in a heavily congested section of Austin, was still smoldering six hours after the crash, with much of the damage on the second and third floors.

The entire outside of the second floor was gone on the side of the building where the plane hit. Support beams were bent inward. Venetian blinds dangled from blown-out windows, and large sections of the exterior were blackened with soot.

Andrew Jacobson, an IRS revenue officer who was on the second floor when the plane hit with a "big whoomp" and then a second explosion, said about six people couldn't use the stairwell because of smoke and debris. He found a metal bar to break a window so the group could crawl out onto a concrete ledge, where they were rescued by firefighters. His bloody hands were bandaged.

The FBI was investigating. The National Transportation Safety Board sent an investigator as well.

In the long, rambling, self-described "rant" that Stack apparently posted on the Internet, he began: "If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?'"

He recounted his financial reverses, his difficulty finding work in Austin, and at least two clashes with the IRS, one of them after he filed no return because, he said, he had no income, the other after he failed to report his wife Sheryl's income.

He railed against politicians, the Catholic Church, the "unthinkable atrocities" committed by big business, and the government bailouts that followed. He said he slowly came to the conclusion that "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer."

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well," he wrote.

According to California state records, Stack had a troubled business history, twice starting software companies in California that ultimately were suspended by the state's tax board, one in 2000, the other in 2004. Also, his first wife filed for bankruptcy in 1999, listing a debt to the IRS of nearly $126,000.

The blaze at Stack's home, a red-brick house on a tree-lined street in a middle-class neighborhood, caved in the roof and blew out the windows. Elbert Hutchins, who lives one house away, said the house caught fire about 9:15 a.m. He said a woman and her teenage daughter drove up to the house before firefighters arrived.

"They both were very, very distraught," said Hutchins, a retiree who said he didn't know the family well. "'That's our house!' they cried. 'That's our house!'"

Red Cross spokeswoman Marty McKellips said the agency was treating two people who live in the house.


Suicide pilot Joe Stack had history of shutting doors on people

Man who crashed into IRS building cut himself off from family and friends

By Asher Price -

For many years, Andy Stack, as he was known to his classmates at the Milton Hershey School, was among "the lost."

"We don't know where they are, and we don't have a forwarding address for them," said Mike Macchioni, the alumnus representative for the class of 1974 of the famed Pennsylvania orphanage.

And then, one day, maybe 10 years ago, Macchioni tracked Stack down in California.

"Among the lost, you don't know what to expect," he said. "Maybe not everyone had a positive experience. But he had people closer than sisters and brothers here."

Macchioni's conversation with Stack was brief. "He wasn't rude to me at all, but he was very matter-of-fact. He said something tantamount to, 'I have nothing against you personally; I just want nothing to do with the Milton Hershey School or anyone having to do with the Milton Hershey School.' That's different from a lot of us."

That seemed to be a pattern with Stack, who went from Pennsylvania to California to Austin, leaving behind businesses and family — he had an ex-wife in California and hadn't spoken to at least one brother for 15 years. He was, in short, the sort of man who makes sure to pull the door shut quietly behind him.

Until the day last month when Andrew Joseph Stack III slammed it emphatically, crashing his plane into the offices of the Internal Revenue Service in Northwest Austin, killing a man and taking his own life in the crush of steel, glass and fire.

'A tenacious individual'

Milton and Kitty Hershey, rich from the chocolate business but childless, started their orphanage in 1909. Graduates were given $100, a suitcase full of new clothes and a kit of machine tools to prepare them for a job — part of the mission to send children to "fulfilling and productive lives."

Stack was what they called a lifer. His father, who hailed from Pittsburgh, had died of a heart attack in 1962 in Colorado, where he worked as a pipe fitter and where all the Stack children were born — Andrea first, then Andy, Samantha, Harry and Tom, the youngest, according to Harry Stack.

"I'm sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem-solving from my father," Stack wrote in the long suicide note he posted online. "I realized this at a very young age."

Soon, their mother moved the family to Johnstown, in western Pennsylvania, where she grew up. In August 1964, Andy, then 7 years old, and Harry, then 5, were placed in the all-boys Milton Hershey boarding school, 150 miles to the east. (Tom was not old enough for the orphanage.) Several months later, according to Harry Stack, their mother killed herself with a gun.

The two girls and the youngest boy were split up among relatives . Some holidays were spent together, and the boys hung out now and then in their free time. But largely because they were in different grades and because, Harry said, the school administration chose to keep them separate, they did not depend on each other on campus.

"We were in close proximity, but separate," said Harry Stack. "We didn't grow up in an atmosphere that fostered contact. Nobody said, 'You guys are brothers; it's important you two especially try to have some shared experiences' — the kinds of things that bond siblings together their entire life."

Parts of the school were rough-and-tumble with kids from broken homes. Some had parents who committed suicide. Some were street kids, whose bullet wounds you could see in the showers, said Jim Allison, a classmate and school friend of Joe Stack's who lived in the same student house with him for more than a year.

"To a certain degree, some of those kids came in already emotionally scarred," Allison said. "For some of them, it was the last step before reform school."

But that wasn't the case with Andy Stack. He was always near the top of his class; he was in glee club, played the clarinet and was in the band and orchestra. As the counterculture movement swept through Hershey and the rest of the country, Stack toed the line.

"He was probably one of the more conservative people in class," said Allison, who sang with him in glee club. "I don't remember him doing drugs, don't remember him fighting the system, don't remember him being rebellious. He was a pretty strait-laced guy."

"To the general population, he would have been introverted," Macchioni said. "I remember a very acerbic wit. He struck me as being very funny."

Despite his extracurricular activities, Andy Stack wasn't particularly attached to the school, his brother said.

"We didn't perceive the environment we grew up as nurturing," said Harry Stack, who now lives in Ohio. "Many other people saw it as a great place to grow up. It was a safe place, and every material want was certainly met.

"Someone spoke about the place as being a warehouse, where you were out of the rain, well-fed, but we had the sense there were people with fewer material goods, but they had adults, caregivers, around them, who interacted with them on a little more of a caring level and, perhaps, even more of a loving level."

Andy tended to be dedicated, even "fixated" on his own activities, according to Harry. Long after lights were turned out in the boys' rooms, he would strum a guitar in the dark as he tried to improve his playing.

"He could get stuck on something even then. He was a tenacious individual," Harry Stack said.

"When people raise their kids, they relate their interests and their passions, even, hope their kids follow those passions," continued his brother, who has children of his own. "He developed the passions he cared about in a sort of vacuum."

'Paddling furiously'

Upon leaving Milton Hershey, with suitcase in hand, Andy Stack enrolled in Harrisburg Community College in Pennsylvania. He was a small man — maybe 5 feet 6 inches, with a lazy eye — and introduced himself for the first time as Joe.

"I ran into him there," Allison said. "But he cut himself off from everybody. Then I never saw him again."

Without graduating, he left Harrisburg, where he survived on peanut butter and bread "or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge," Stack wrote in his suicide note. He moved to his native Colorado, where he graduated in 1979 with a degree in electronic engineering technology from Southern Colorado University.

Then he struck out for California.

He was meticulous in his hobbies and occupations — playing music and writing software — and it was in California, according to his suicide note, where his attention turned to taxes.

"He liked the idea not only of saving himself a couple of bucks, but of getting one over on 'the man,'" Harry Stack said.

"Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having tax code readings and discussions," Joe Stack wrote in his suicide message, a manifesto of grievances that he edited 27 times in the days before the Feb. 18 plane crash.

Ducking taxes became another fixation for Stack, and he threw himself into a protracted struggle against the government over money he owed.

According to The Associated Press, in the 1980s, Joe Stack and his former wife, Ginger, formed a branch of the Universal Life Church Inc., which the IRS declared an illegal tax shelter. The Stacks then sued the U.S. government to defend the tax-exempt status of the "home church."

He became further outraged by a 1986 tax code change that barred contract software engineers from certain deductions. "They could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave," Stack wrote in his manifesto.

The year after the tax code change he spent close to $5,000 to protest and at least 1,000 hours "writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen."

"I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity," he wrote.

But when Harry Stack visited his brother in California, he left the impression that he "was just a person trying to make a living."

"He seemed like one of us ducks floating down the river. We just didn't realize he was paddling so furiously under the water," Harry Stack said.

'Financially sane'

On a flight aboard his Piper to New Mexico in 2005 , Stack told Simone Wensink, the singer in their band — Last Straw, named by Stack — that he had moved to Austin because living was cheaper, the flying easier and the music scene thriving.

He had left behind in California a divorce, a depressed economic climate and, according to his note, a government doggedly chasing after his savings. In 1988, after five years of litigation, the Stacks were ordered to pay $14,446 in back taxes from 1981, 1982 and 1983, and untold penalties and interest for fraud and negligence, according to U.S. Tax Court documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"He was a good man," his ex-wife in California told the Los Angeles Times on the day of the crash. "Frustrated with the IRS, yes, but a good man."

On that 2005 flight to New Mexico, Stack was on his way to meet someone, and Wensink tagged along so she could meet a friend. That wasn't unusual: Stack often offered plane rides to his friends and bandmates.

"He took their families and kids to San Antonio or to the coast for dinner," said Paul Ramsey, who engineered Last Straw's sole album in his recording studio, Perfect Pitch. "He told me, 'If you ever have a gig and a session and can't ditch either one, just give me a call and pay the gas.'"

"Everyone in the band just loved him to death. They looked to him for answers — musical, intellectual," Ramsey said.

Wensink, who sang "A Certain Kind of Magic," the only Stack-written song on the album, said he was a motivated, on-time band musician.

He was also careful about the recording of the music.

"The only problem (he and I) ever had was analog versus digital," remembered Ramsey, who said he last saw Stack at least a year ago. "He tried to get the band to leave because I didn't have a computer."

Eventually, Ramsey prevailed, engineered and mixed the album. Stack, he said, was extremely pleased at how it came out.

"He had a vocabulary that stretched around the world three times," Ramsey said. "He seemed like he was financially sane and sound. All his equipment was nice, his watch was nice, his car was nice, his glasses were nice, and his hygiene was flawless."

Before he burned it down, authorities say, Stack's house in a modest North Austin subdivision, Scofield Farms, was valued at $232,000, according to records with the Travis Central Appraisal District. Prices for his sort of plane, a four-seater, single-propeller Piper Cherokee Dakota, start at about $100,000 on the Web site

Just as he had with the band name, Stack volunteered "Over the Edge" as the album title, and it stuck.

The band lasted through 2007, playing gigs at Graffiti's, at the Alligator Grill, on an unofficial South by Southwest Music Festival stage and on a network television morning show.

But Wensink got married, as did Stack, who wed Sheryl Housh in a small ceremony that year, and the band dissolved. And Stack lost touch with at least some of his bandmates.

'Stop this insanity'

"He was a mixture of tech nerd and laid-back musician," recalled Susan Kidwell, a neighbor in Northwest Austin whose family occasionally had dinner with the Stacks, attended some of their house concerts and had them over to watch football games. "He was quiet and milquetoasty, nice and polite."

The Saturday before Stack crashed his plane, his stepdaughter, Margaux, came over to play video games with the Kidwells' son. Sheryl Stack picked her up, and nothing seemed amiss.

Kidwell said Stack was supportive of his wife, who is in a doctoral music program at the University of Texas. Sheryl Stack, who spent the night before Joe Stack crashed his plane in a hotel room with Margaux, declined to comment.

When the Stacks came over to watch the Super Bowl in early February, he greeted Kidwell with a hug. Everyone was rooting for the New Orleans Saints. Sheryl joked that Joe Stack would root for the Indianapolis Colts just to be contrary.

"From time to time we talked about politicians, but I never heard a single political comment that stuck in my mind," she said.

During the University of Texas vs. Texas A&M football game in November, Stack took issue with the Longhorns' play-calling. Insanity, he told Kidwell and others gathered to watch the game, is repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome each time.

A couple of months later, in his manifesto, he would write: "I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

Some who knew Stack best did not want to talk about him — adding to the mystery of a man with a history of shutting doors behind him. He had no children of his own . He and his ex-wife were married for 18 years before divorcing in 1999, but after her initial comments to the press, Ginger Stack did not return phone calls from the American-Statesman.

Harry Stack had not been in touch with his brother for 15 years, did not know that he had moved to Texas, did not know that he had remarried and did not know that he had set up a new life.

He learned of his fate when he read a news story about the plane attack online, clicked on the manifesto and saw his brother's name.

"It was dreadful," he said, choking up.

Joe Stack had acted alone, with a terrible determination, as he had so often in his life.

"It's kind of an American ideal — 'You're on your own, captain of my fate,'\u2009" said Harry Stack. "Part of his thinking there is that what happens to you in your life, the circumstances you find yourself in, are largely the circumstances you make for yourself — it's all up to you. You're just on your own."

Then, sounding weary, he added, "I just wish he said, 'I'm in a bind, and I need some help'"


Full Joseph Andrew Stack's suicide manifesto

If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, "Why did this have to happen?" The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn't enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless... especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I'm not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was "no taxation without representation". I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a "crackpot", traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven't had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country's leaders don't see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political "representatives" (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the "terrible health care problem". It's clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don't get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You've got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly "holds accountable" its victims, claiming that they're responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law "requires" a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that's not "duress" than what is. If this is not the measure of atotalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early '80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having 'tax code' readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful "exemptions" that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the "best", high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the "big boys" were doing (except that we weren't steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two "interpretations" for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us... Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their "freedom"... and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of "paying my dues"), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I'm sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father. I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time. When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me). I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be "healthier" eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread. I couldn't quite go there, but the impression was made. I decided that I didn't trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early '80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a 'wet-behind-the-ears' contract software engineer... and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report ( regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (


(a) IN GENERAL - Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. - This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. - The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.


· "another person" is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.

· "taxpayer" is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.

· "individual", "employee", or "worker" is you.

Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it's not very complicated. The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d). Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave. Twenty years later, I still can't believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my 'pocket change', and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity. This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their "freedom". Oh, and don't forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn't bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise. The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren't going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists). This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle. If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks. Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s. Our leaders decided that they didn't need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that. The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco. However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to "shore up" their windfall. Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed. Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare. Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, 'special' facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months. This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive. Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars ... as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY! After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I'm thinking that it might be good for a change. Bye to California, I'll try Austin for a while. So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I've never experienced such a hard time finding work. The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages... and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn't give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA. This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income. I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn't have any income there was no need. The sleazy government decided that they disagreed. But they didn't notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out. Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present. After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I'd never enter another accountant's office again. But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle. After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order. I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting. Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl's unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn't have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit. By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented). Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone. The end result is... well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the "great" depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn't it ironic how far we've come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn't have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it's "business-as-usual". Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes... isn't that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone. The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government. Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough). In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I'm hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn't limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at "big brother" while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won't continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. 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. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn't so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)




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