VIOLA, Wis. – A landowner with "strong anti-government attitudes" surrendered after a daylong standoff with police Thursday that included a gunfire exchange, tear gas and a house fire, authorities said. No one was injured.
Officers who tried to contact 60-year-old Robert Bayliss in the afternoon were fired upon, then returned fire and deployed tear gas, according to Darin Gudgeon, emergency management director for Richland County in southwestern Wisconsin.
Then a fire started in the home; Bayliss surrendered soon afterward and was taken into the custody of the Richland County Sheriff's Department, said Gudgeon, a deputy with the department.
The fire had been contained Thursday evening. The cause remained under investigation, Gudgeon said.
He faces a charge of intentionally pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer, and sheriff's Lt. Bob Frank said other charges could be filed. He did not know whether Bayliss had a lawyer.
The dispute started Monday when deputies tried to serve Bayliss with a lawsuit seeking to evict him for failure to pay property taxes back to 2001 on his home and 18 acres, Richland county counsel Benjamin Southwick said.
The county took ownership of the land in November because of the unpaid taxes, Southwick said.
Rifle shots were fired at officers who went to the property Monday, Gudgeon said. On Thursday, SWAT officers used an armored vehicle to try to serve search and arrest warrants but encountered shots and ended up in the standoff, Gudgeon said.
Officers tried to talk to Bayliss with a bullhorn because he did not have a telephone, Frank said.
Bayliss was known as "a person who had very strong anti-government attitudes and beliefs" and who would carry a rifle and show it, Southwick said.
He owes $5,647 in delinquent taxes and interest on the land and has not paid the taxes for seven years, according to the county treasurer's office.
The home is south of Viola, a town of about 700 people 70 miles northwest of Madison.
In October, a New Hampshire property where two tax evaders holed up for months refusing to serve prison sentences was cleared of explosives and seized by the federal government. Ed and Elaine Brown are serving five years in prison.