On 18 June 1984, controversial Jewish radio talkshow host Alan Berg was assassinated in the driveway of his Denver home. Berg’s belligerent, confrontational style was carried by Denver’s KOA radio and reached thirty-eight states during the evening hours.
The eclectic range of topics included subjects such as gun control, homosexuality, race relations, and Christianity. Always willing to enrage the caller as well as his listeners, Berg became one of the most popular radio personalities in the country. He also became one of the most hated men in the country by the conspiratorial white supremacist movement.
In the spring of 1984, a militant subgroup of the Aryan Nation led by Robert Mathews, known as the Order or the Silent Brotherhood, began what it referred to as “Step 5,” a code name for its assassination hit list. The list began with Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, followed by Norman Lear, the liberal television producer, and then Alan Berg. Berg’s radio show gave him a nightly platform to belittle Aryan Nation and its cause, and thus made him a prime target.
On 18 June Berg recorded a radio show questioning the pope’s comment that sex for pleasure is sinful. Berg argued that nothing in the Bible supported this claim, and although he purposely misinterpreted the pope’s statement, he used it as the basis for an hour-long attack on Catholics and the pope in his usual controversial style. During the show, Mathews and his men arrived in Denver.
Weeks earlier, Mathews had sent one of the few women he trusted to KOA radio station under the pretext of writing a college paper. While there, she acquired information on Berg’s appearance, his schedule, what type of car he drove, where he parked, and where he lived. The plan was simple: ambush Berg at his home.
Mathews and two of his followers, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, parked across the street from Berg’s home and waited for him to return. At approximately 9:20 P.M., Berg pulled his VW Beetle into his driveway. As he was getting out of the car, Lane pulled in behind Berg’s car, blocking him in. Mathews opened the rear door for Pierce, who opened fire with a .45-caliber MAC 10, killing Berg. Mathews and Pierce jumped back into their car and Lane sped down the street.
In December 1984, after a massive manhunt, the FBI cornered Mathews in a house on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington. After a two-day standoff the FBI fired an M-79 Starburst in the house, causing a fire. Defiantly, Mathews remained in the burning house firing his gun until he succumbed to the flames. The other members of the Order were eventually captured and in November 1987 David Lane and Bruce Pierce were found guilty of the murder of Alan Berg and sentenced to 150 years in prison.