When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Angela Shannon
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
In 1993, 19-year-old Angela Shannon hand-wrote a death threat to George Woodward, a Milwaukee doctor who performed abortions. The threat of violence might not have been newsworthy in itself, except that Angela is the daughter of Shelley Shannon, the anti-abortion domestic terrorist from Grants Pass, Oregon who shot George Tiller in both arms outside his abortion clinic that same year.
Angela was born in 1974 to Rachelle Ranae “Shelley” Shannon in Washington state. Her birth father was married to another woman and Shelley married another man, David Shannon, later that year. In 1980 the Shannon family moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Angela’s mother Shelley was a “Christian wife and homeschooling mother,” and Angela and her later siblings were all homeschooled by Shelley. Shelley was introduced in 1988 to anti-abortion material from Last Days Ministries, a Christian commune in Texas that advocates “militancy against abortion” and uses a “language of violence” in their activism materials. Inspired by an Operation Rescue video at the first Right to Life meeting she attended, Shelley became a regular at clinic blockages across the U.S. By 1991 she began to “discuss violent action with other radical thinkers.” She edited a manual for Army of God, a network of Christian anti-abortion terrorists, and started corresponding with imprisoned terrorists. (Army of God claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in the 90’s perpetrated by Eric Robert Rudolph, himself a homeschooler.) Shelley considered Michael Griffin, who murdered abortion doctor David Gunn, to be “the awesomest, greatest hero of our time.”
In April of 1992, Shelley began committing acts of arson against abortion clinics in Oregon. Her first target was the Catalina Medical Center in Ashland, Oregon. During her acts of arson, Shelley often brought Angela along as an accomplice. Indeed, by the age of 18 Angela had become “a fellow anti-abortionist as well as a daughter,” who “would faithfully convey Shelley’s sentiments and her doctrine should the need arise.” (Angela was actually first arrested at the age of 14, during a blockage and protest against the Lovejoy Surgicenter.) Mother and daughter targeted clinics in Portland and Eugene as well, and also traveled to Sacramento, California and Reno, Nevada to napalm clinics.
In February of 1993, Angela arranged to meet a friend of hers that she met during an anti-abortion event at the Sacramento airport. While they visited, Angela gave the friend a sealed envelope and asked him to mail it for her because “she did not want the letter traced to her.” Her friend did as requested, and days later the envelope was received by George Woodward, a doctor who performed abortions at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The letter, opened first by George’s wife, said that if the doctor “had not ‘stopped killing’ by March 16, 1993, the writer would ‘stalk’ him down and harm him and his family.” It concluded with the following threat: “If I hear you are still killing when I get to town I will haunt you and your wife day and night and give you no peace. If you continue, I will hunt you down like any other wild beast and kill you.”
In September 1993, police searched Angela’s apartment and discovered material indicating her guilt in the death threat. She was sentenced several years later in 1997 to 4 years in prison. 2 years later Angela’s mother Shelley was also sentenced to 20 years in prison, declared by a judge to be “a terrorist for firebomb attacks on women’s clinics in three states.” Shelley was already serving a sentence from 1993 for shooting George Tiller.
View the case index here.