Austin suicide pilot’s daughter calls father a ‘hero’, then recants

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, February 22, 2010 22:49 EDT
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Joe Stack — a 53-year-old accordion player from Austin, Texas, who smashed his single engine aircraft into an IRS office killing one and injuring 15 others — is a “hero” in the eyes of his daughter. Or, maybe he isn’t.

In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Samantha Bell, Stack’s 38-year-old daughter and resident of Norway, was asked if her father is a “hero.” Her reply was, “Yes.”

Why? “Because now maybe people will listen,” she said on Monday morning.

Even so, she told the network, Stack’s ultimate decision to destroy the IRS office was “inappropriate.”

“His last actions, the suicide, the catastrophe that caused injuries and death, that was wrong, but if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished,” she said, before adding that she does “agree about the government.”

Before burning down his home and destroying the IRS office on Thursday, Stack wrote a letter and posted it online, damning the tax authority, capitalism, the Catholic church and government restrictions. He wrote that his conclusion was to add his body to the count, relenting that “violence is the only answer.”

When ABC asked if Stack was a hero, Bell replied “yes.” After the interview, she called back to recant her words, stating that her father was “not a hero” and that she mourns for the death of Vernon Hunter, the IRS employee Stack killed.

“How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, gets into his plane and drives it into the building to kill people?” Hunter’s son Ken asked ABC News. “My dad Vernon did two tours of duty in Vietnam. My dad’s a hero.”

Bell had characterized Stack as a “loving father,” while others close to him said he was a good man whose troubles with the IRS were largely kept private.

For the most part, Stack kept to himself in Austin, Texas, working as a freelance software engineer and playing bass and accordion in a honky-tonk band. While he hadn’t been playing with his friends in The Billy Eli band for over a year and a half, even his former band-mates were shocked.

“We didn’t know that he had frustrations and troubles,” said Pam Parker, who had known Stack and his wife, Sheryl, for several years and last spoke to him a few weeks ago.

“He always was very easygoing,” Parker told the Austin American-Statesman. “He was just a pleasant friendly guy.”

Stack played music with Parker’s husband, and he and his wife — a pianist in the graduate music program at the University of Texas — would put on concerts for their friends at their sprawling home.

“You wouldn’t have pegged him to do anything crazy let alone a big spectacular crazy thing,” Parker said.

Jim Hemphill, a member of the band, said he was shocked by Stack’s actions and the anger revealed in the note.

“I never saw anything like this in Joe,” said Hemphill.

Stack’s ex-wife also expressed shock.

“He was a good man. Frustrated with the IRS, yes, but a good man,” Ginger Stack told the LA Times. “I’m in shock right now. He had good values. He really did.”

With AFP.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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