Gilead’s diplomatic mission to Randolph last week failed to secure the northern border of the Gilead, as the convoy was attacked shortly after its arrival and before establishing any sort of dialogue. But the Gilead was still able to profit from the journey with only minimal damages and injuries, said Joe Tobiason, GDC Vice-chair and head of the mission.
“We had decided beforehand that if we couldn’t establish at least a non-aggression pact, then we would head through Randolph to the Snowsville General Store to see if procuring more weapons and ammo would be possible,” said Tobiason. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to establish any sort of relations with the people in Randolph, because somebody started shooting at us before we could do anything more than ask who was in charge.
“We were able to determine two important things, though,” Tobiason added. “First, our people and our equipment can stand up to a hell of an onslaught, and second, it seems that Randolph is being run by gang-bangers from Boston.”
The information about the gangs having taken over Randolph was provided by two sentries, whose capture provided valuable information to the convoy prior to its entering town.
How events unfolded
The convoy, consisting of five armored and heavily-armed trucks (as described in Issue #7, June 10), set out from Gilead at approximately 8 a.m. on Tuesday, June 11, heading north on Route 12 toward Randolph. During their long-range patrol into Randolph a few days earlier, on June 8, Rich Bennington and Stanley Lyon had seen two sentries posted near the Clara Martin House on Route 12, so the Gilead Convoy stopped at the Central Supplies parking lot, well out of sight of any sentries in or around the vicinity of the Clara Martin House or Gifford Medical Center, and sent Bennington and Lyon ahead on foot.
Lyon and Bennington approached the Clara Martin Center from the back, catching the sentries by surprise and immobilizing them before they were able to raise an alarm. “Each of them had an automatic weapon and a pressurized gas horn – one of those things used at games to signal half-time and stuff like that,” said Lyon.
The captives confirmed that they were from Boston, and specifically that they were from two rival gangs – Magnolia and Academy – that had set up in Randolph and were running the town jointly in an uneasy truce. “They also said there are a few members from other Boston gangs that were in town, but none of them had enough people to establish a power-base on their own,” said Bennington. “They were mentioning that there were people from gangs called Humboldt, D-Boys, T-Wolves, 1850, and others. No idea what any of that means, but for our purposes it means they’re pretty fractured and uncoordinated.”
Having disabled the gangs’ only sentry system, Bennington and Lyon left the two tied up in an abandoned house and made their way back to the waiting convoy, which then proceeded into Randolph armed with the new information provided by the sentries. The five trucks slowly rolled into town, and encountered no people until the first truck in the convoy reached the railroad tracks, at which point two armed men emerged from one of the storefronts in the Block Building and stood in the street, just past the three corpses nailed to the asphalt (as described in Issue #7, June 10).
Although the two armed men were not pointing their weapons at the convoy, the fact that they were standing directly in its path was a clear message that the trucks were not to pass. “That’s when I decided it was time to defuse the situation, if we could,” said Tobiason, who was sitting in the passenger side of the lead truck. “So I opened my door and stood on the running board to lean out, with both hands showing, and said hello.”
Tobiason said his intention was to soften the effect of the heavily armored trucks by showing a willingness to be vulnerable and to discuss matters. “I told them we were from down the road a ways, and we wanted to talk about how we might establish neighborly relations,” said Tobiason.
“I could have told Joe exactly what was going to happen,” said Martha Arceneaux, a GDC member and former social worker who was stationed in the bed of the lead truck. “When I saw him lean out and heard him talking to those guys, I was pretty scared for him. These gang-bangers generally have known nothing but intense competition and violence for most of their lives, and this new world of scarce resources and even scarcer law enforcement is only going to harden their resolve to take what they can.”
The two armed men in the road laughed at Tobiason’s invitation to talk, and countered with an offer of their own: “Tell you what, old man. You mothafu***s get out of your fu***n’ trucks and walk home, and we won’t bleed you.”
Arceneaux said that as the threat was made, she saw several upper-floor windows on the east side of the street opened by people with firearms. “I quietly told Joe that we had a lot of muzzles pointing at us, and that pretty much ended the conversation with the guys in the street,” she said.
Tobiason said he glanced briefly at the additional armed people making their appearances at the windows, and decided to end the diplomatic effort. “I thanked them for their time and apologized for bothering them, and then got back in the cab and closed the door really quickly,” said Tobiason. “That’s when they started shooting.”
The armed members of the Gilead convoy had been told that they must not shoot until they heard a specific signal – three honks of the lead truck’s horn – in order to avoid a panicked shot that would unnecessarily set off a conflict. Under the circumstances, however, the second truck gave the signal because James Nash, who was riding in the passenger seat of that vehicle, was hit by several pellets from a shotgun blast that occurred in the first volley of fire from the gang members. “I saw Jim jerk toward me and curse and I knew he had been hit,” said Eric Quinton, who was driving the second truck, “so I just gave the signal and we started moving forward.”
Tobiason said he was surprised he heard the signal from another vehicle, but was about to give the order anyway. Once the shooting started, the convoy started moving forward, keeping within 10 feet of each other, as they had been training to do. “Ten feet might sound like a lot of space between vehicles,” said Quinton, “but when you’re in a pickup truck with more than half your windshield blocked by roofing steel, you feel like you’re constantly about to ram the truck in front of you.”
Bennington explained that there were two primary reasons for staying close. “First, we had to make sure we remained formed as a single unit to concentrate our firepower,” he said. “If we got split apart, we would have been far more vulnerable and less effective as a fighting force. And second, we had to protect our radiators as much as possible, since we hardened only the lead truck’s grill against small arms fire.”
The convoy rolled north on Main Street, taking fire from ground-level shooters as well as second- and third-story shooters. Despite the fusillade directed against it, the convoy’s armor functioned as it was intended, protecting the shooters in the truck beds as well as in the cabs. Two of the trucks suffered flat tires, although only one of them was caused by bullets. The other was caused when rolling over the three corpses that were nailed to the street; one of the railroad spikes that had been used to secure the bodies punctured a tire as the convoy made its escape.
Firearms from Snowsville
The convoy’s secondary mission was to secure additional ammunition, firearms and supplies at the Snowsville General Store, if possible. According to Tobiason, the rationale was twofold. First, he said, whether or not the Randolph diplomacy was successful, additional firearms and ammo could only be helpful. And second, the mission organizers figured that if there was a shootout in Randolph, it would be impractical to attempt turning the entire convoy to head in the opposite direction while taking fire the entire time. “We figured it would be better to run the gauntlet once, catch our breath and reconfigure our strategy if possible, and then run it again to get back home if we had to,” said Bennington.
After leaving Randolph and coming to an open area of Route 12, the convoy stopped to assess damage and make quick repairs. The tires were changed and EMT Jennifer Godin examined Nash’s injuries from the shotgun blast, which were relatively minor and not in need of immediate treatment except with an antibacterial spray and bandages.
At the Snowsville General Store, the convoy saw that it had indeed been broken into, but by no means emptied of useful goods. “All the handguns were gone, but we found a few long guns, and several recurve bows, arrows, and lots of ammo – at least as much as we took from the sports store in Randolph several weeks ago,” said Don Brewer, the GDC’s Treasurer and Resource Coordinator, after the convoy had returned home. “I would estimate that our ammo supply will last five or six years at least. Maybe a little less if we have a hot war with the Randolph people.”
The convoy also secured more winter clothes and equipment, including boots, gloves, overalls, vests, hats and more.
As they consumed a quick meal at the Snowsville store, the convoy discussed the plan for returning through Randolph to get to the Gilead. Brief consideration was given to using I-89 to bypass Randolph entirely, but this strategy was dismissed due to the uncertainty regarding the highway’s safety, especially given that news from passersby over the past several weeks has indicated that major highways were patrolled by Raiders who preyed on travelers. It was determined that the convoy would head back into Randolph, but bypass most of Main Street by turning up Pleasant Street, which runs parallel to Main Street (see map, this page) and turns into Beanville Road, which subsequently joins with Route 12 well beyond Randolph.
The alternate plan, in case Pleasant Street was somehow blocked, was to run Main Street again, “with all guns blazing,” as Tobiason put it.
As it turned out, the dangerous alternate plan was required, and it was even more dangerous than anticipated. “As we drove into town, we saw that they had blocked off Pleasant Street, so Main Street was pretty much our only option,” said Tobiason. “But after we had passed the blockade at Pleasant Street and had nowhere to go but straight ahead, they rolled out a couple of cars from Salisbury Street, just before the railroad tracks, and blocked our way through.”
Bennington speculates that the Gilead convoy’s first trip through Main Street was a wake-up call for the Randolph Occupation Force (as he has since dubbed them). “I think up to this time, they had only faced two- or three-car convoys of people who were far from home and unprepared for confrontation,” he said. “We represented something entirely different, and they adapted quickly. Very quickly. And what’s even more disturbing is that they seemed to know we’d try to come back through.”
With two vehicles parked across the convoy’s only way out of the shooting gallery of Main Street, it had no recourse but to resort to brute force. “I wanted to shout back to the trucks behind me to speed up with me, but there’s no way they would have heard me over all the shooting,” said Julie Blackwell, driver of the lead truck. “So I had no choice – I sped up so I could ram one of those cars out of our way and clear a path for us.”
Quinton, driving the second truck, saw the lead truck pull away and accelerated to catch up, but the third truck didn’t react as quickly. “It seems like our truck was taking a huge amount of fire, and I was trying to fire my handgun out the slit in the armor while driving at the same time,” said the third truck’s driver Robert Jamison, husband of GDC member Chelsea Graff. I looked away from the truck in front of me for a second, and when I looked back, there was a fifty-foot gap between us.”
That’s when his truck took damage to its radiator. “Steam started pouring out the front as I accelerated to catch up to the others,” Jamison said.
The lead truck rammed one of the cars out of the convoy’s path and all five trucks were able to make it through the gap, but the truck that took damage to its engine was faltering by the time the convoy was climbing the hill toward Gifford Medical Center. The fourth truck in the convoy drove up against the damaged truck’s back end and helped push it up the hill until the convoy came parallel with the Shaw’s Supermarket parking lot.
“We stopped the convoy and set up a perimeter while Eric [Quinton] hooked up a tow line so that the dead truck could be pulled home,” said Tobiason. “Nobody came at us from Randolph, although we did see a few people staring at us from the windows of the Shaw’s.”
During the repair stop it was discovered that 18 year-old Wayne Knight had been shot during the second run through Main Street. “He had been struck by a bullet that broke his left collarbone and lodged in his trapezius muscle, between his neck and shoulder,” Godin reported, after the convoy had returned to the Gilead and she had performed rudimentary surgery to remove the bullet and set the bone. “He’ll be out of commission for a few weeks, but he should be fine.”
The remainder of the mission was uneventful, and Quinton is working to repair damage to the trucks and devise ways to harden them against such damage in the future.