The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation near Hayward, Wisconsin experienced six arson fires set across 12 hours from about 11pm on July 14 to 10 am on July 15th.
One person has been taken in custody by the Sawyer County Sheriff. 37-year-old Chris Grover an adult member of a local fundlemental religious group that opposed traditional beliefs located on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation and Minneapolis
Authorities from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, LCO Tribal Police Department and Sawyer County Sheriff’s department were confirmed to be involved in the joint investigation for multiple counts of arson and attempted murder.
Fire Departments from the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe, Town of Bass Lake and Town of Hayward responded.
The fire damaged the two story back wall of Indian Country Trading Post Business Office on Highway K used by IndianCountryTV.com and News From Indian Country editorial offices and destroyed a recreational vehicle in use as temporary housing by CEO Paul DeMain. Another gasoline fire was set on a small covered camping wigwam on the other end of the property.
The sequence of events as now established includes:
#1. Fire burns down a sweat lodge cared for by Gary Quarderer on Highway K, 1 mile south of the LCO Casino.
#2. Fire reported at 11:19pm at Indian Country Trading Post on highway K that destroys the recreational vehicle of Paul DeMain and damages another outside structure. DeMain a Skabewis (speaker/servent), 1st degree Midewin, and member of the Big Drum Society, was out of town at a pow wow in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin at the time. Arriving responders noted there were two different fires burning on the site.
#3. Fire reported about 11:43pm the Sawyer Country Sheriff receives a report of a fire adjacent to the LCO Head Start. The building is used by Big Drum Society as its Dance Hall and was moved to the reservation from its use as a Hayward Historyland Cook Shanty during the 1950s and 60s. The Dance Hall is a total loss.
Other fires reported included:
#4. The Honor the Earth Pow wow Grounds MC stand fire extinguished with minor damage at aprox 10 am July 15th and the odor of gasoline dumped on grass in the elders seating section.
#5. Damage and attempted arson reported at the outside Big Drum Dance Ring in Whitefish community, a historic religious site at LCO. There was an unsuccessful attempt to start the seating in an arena on fire, and then damage from the rear end of a large truck that had rammed the railing and caved in the seating, leaving large tire prints.
#6. Report on Sunday afternoon July 15th by Alvin Baker Jr that the Golden Eagle sweat lodge on Grindstone Lake had burned down the night before.
A report of drive-offs of the same silver car from the LCO Convenience Store (C-1) on Saturday evening three different times within an hour and half with a suspect filling gas cans was brought to the attention of investigators.
LCO Tribal Council Chairman, also known as the Reverend Gordon Thayer of the Overcomer’s Ministry, Inc reports that he met with the suspect’s parents on Sunday afternoon July 15 regarding their son, and that he later attended the arrest of 37 year-old Chris Grover, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe and allegedly his nephew.
Thayer a controversial figure because of his devotion to God then left town without issuing any further statements.
Thayer has been highlighted in “recovery,” “born again” and “saved” theology blogs online as saying that he has been tormented by “traditional shamanistic spirits” that he was only able to overcome by his conversion and being “saved by God,” because the creator thru “Jesus has more power,” according to the website breakingchristianNews.com
According to Thayer, a Vietnam Veteran in his testimonials, he says he is now in a spiritual war rather then a physical war that God saved him from in Vietnam.
Grover was known to be a former drug dealer in the LCO community of cocaine and marijuana along with his step-father Jeff Crone and Thayers former communications director Joe Morey, all participants in Thayer’s /recover church group at times, according to local community members who asked to remain anonymous because of fear for their lives.
The community and inter-denominational members gathered and held 4-day pre-feast before their annual pow wow was held at the Honor The Earth Pow wow Grounds at noon July 17th bringing a broad inter-denomination community together and to prepare for the 39th Annual Honor The Earth Pow wow and Celebration praying the worst was over.
During the event, Grover’s step-father, Jeff Crone who had approached Paul DeMain and personally apologized for the events that endangered his life on July 16th, stepped forward again on July 17th to the entire community and apologized for the conduct of his son.
Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department would not comment on the status of the investigation or whether they were seeking other suspects in the case.
One fund established to assist those impacted by the fire has been set up at the LCO Credit Union and is called FireFund #2588 and checks or money orders can be sent to LCO Box 1710, 9790N County Road K, Hayward, Wisconsin 54843 (715) 634-7772 or make a paypal or credit card donation thru Chipin at firefund2588.chipin.com/firefund-2588