American Crazy, Gaston County Division

It's almost amusing. Almost


Eugene Litteral, Christopher Barker, Christopher Campbell

Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office

I’m sorely tempted to just Gaston County-joke away this incident with the three guys—the youngest with, of course, a teardrop tattoo—accused of assembling DIY grenades out of military surplus, tennis balls, and coffee cans, their stockpile of arms to protect their homesteads and sacred honor from the Obama regime.

At first, the FBI’s case against them even seems like a satisfactory conclusion to the entire affair. The feds get their men; the public is protected from collateral damage from coffee-can bombs; and the three accused not only get to indulge their delusions about a tyrannical federal government but win a break from having to live in some Gaston County dump with an economy-size baby wipes box resting on the car seat that subs for a front porch chaise lounge. The Mecklenburg County jail’s no resort, but it at least has chairs.

But then I realize: Oh, yeah, this Operation Jade Helm fever dream has spread deeply into the hearts and psyches of paranoid America. We have a self-appointed patriot captain scanning the skies for black helicopters in Texas when he’s not using Facebook to offer the following Independence Day toast: “Here’s hoping we are in a shooting war to save this country by the next Fourth of July!!!!!”

We have shots fired near a Mississippi military training center by two men driving a red pickup. They’re still on the loose. Maybe it’s a Jade Helm thing, maybe not.

But it’s harder to laugh at the Gaston County three when you stop to consider what might have happened if the FBI hadn’t received that tip, and who we might have had to mourn after these patriots had finished defending their freedoms. Bombs made of tennis balls and coffee cans are funny right up to the point when they go off.

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Greg Lacour on Politics

Charlotte had a Democratic mayor that got rebuffed by a Democratic majority council before the president appointed him to his cabinet; a former mayor in the Governor's Mansion after an oh-for-infinity streak; membership in a state that sees Charlotte as, well, another state; a neighboring state where public officials do very, very silly things (and sometimes go "hiking"); and a county commissioner who specializes in insulting constituents yet can't seem to get himself unelected. Sounds interesting to me, so I write about it and other matters public. Hashtag #nestpoke. You want to yell at me, email

About Greg Lacour

Greg Lacour spent nearly 10 years as a reporter for the Observer, where he covered Charlotte and Mecklenburg County government, including the infamous Nick Mackey for Sheriff farce of 2007-08, which made him simultaneously homesick for his hometown of New Orleans and hopeful that Charlotte might yet attain "world-class" status. He has written several features for this magazine and took part in the Hurricane Katrina coverage that won The Sun Herald of Biloxi/Gulfport, Miss., another former employer, a Pulitzer Prize. Lacour is single and lives in NoDa.

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