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Officials in North Dakota town see no way to block white supremacist Cobb from buying old church

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White supremacist Craig Cobb, 61, stands outside his home in Leith on Aug. 24, 2013, after purchasing it and 12 other vacant properties in the small Grant County village. He had hoped to draw white nationalists from across the country to the town and eventually take over the incorporated town. 

NOME — This 62-person hamlet in Barnes County is facing a question other sleepy North Dakota towns have already grappled with: What should be done when white supremacist Craig Cobb is trying to move in?

Cobb, aka Paul Craig Cobb, has already tried to turn the towns of Leith and Antler into enclaves of white supremacists. Now, it’s believed he started last week to move into the former Zion Lutheran Church in Nome, about 70 miles southwest of Fargo.

At a meeting of the Nome City Council on Sunday, Feb. 5, Mayor Bruce Storhoff said he’s heard Cobb intends to buy the old church, which is currently zoned as a residence and not a gathering place. However, the sale is not yet complete, and the county recorder’s office has not registered it, Storhoff said.

“As a governing body, we really don’t have a leg to stand on just to not let him in if that sale goes through,” the mayor said, adding that Cobb would have to do something illegal before officials could intervene.

The regularly-scheduled City Council meeting, which coincided with the Super Bowl, was attended by about six members of the public. One of them was Nome resident Sarah Rangeloff, who had a question for Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin.

“Say everything goes through, and he starts trouble,” she said of Cobb. “Are we going to have the extra patrol out here and are you guys ready to deal with that?”

The sheriff assured Rangeloff, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, that his department is ready, but noted that more patrols may require the help of other law enforcement agencies.

“It would kill me if my daughter felt unsafe in her own home because of that idiot,” Rangeloff said, again referring to Cobb.

McClaflin said one of his deputies saw Cobb moving belongings from the trunk of his vehicle into the church Friday evening. The sheriff said he consulted with the local state’s attorney who said that it’s not a matter law enforcement can get involved in at this point.

“He does have a right to own property. He does have a right to declare, you know, his beliefs the same as we do,” said City Auditor Alice Capman. “It’s not something that we need to agree with him on.”

Shortly before Sunday’s meeting, no one answered when The Forum knocked on the church doors. The dilapidated church, with peeling white paint, appeared unoccupied. Cobb, who did not attend the meeting, does not have a listed phone number.

Asked who sold the property to Cobb, city officials referred the question to the county recorder’s office, which was closed over the weekend.

Cobb is a member of the Creativity Movement, a nontheistic religion that believes in the superiority of white people. Starting in 2011, he began buying up property in Leith, N.D., southwest of Bismarck, with the intent of turning the town into a white supremacist enclave.

In 2013, Leith residents learned of Cobb’s plan, and town officials started discussing new building ordinances and even dissolving the town government. Later that year, Cobb was jailed on suspicion of terrorizing after conducting an armed patrol of his property in Leith.

Cobb pleaded guilty in 2014 to a felony terrorizing charge and five misdemeanor menacing charges. A judge gave him credit for time served and put him on supervised probation until 2018.

In 2015, he tried to buy land for an enclave in Antler, N.D., north of Minot and just south of the Canadian border. Cobb has lately resided in Sherwood, N.D., northwest of Minot. He has said the Sherwood house was just a place where he and his girlfriend wanted to live, not start an enclave.

He said the same about a home he tried to buy last month in Landa, N.D., northeast of Minot. In that case, he threatened to file a discrimination suit after a bank officer wouldn't let him purchase the home.


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