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Texas separatists end standoff by laying down arms

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Texas separatists laid down their arms and walked out of their mountain hideaway Saturday to end a week-long standoff with police while two armed secessionists unready to surrender fled into the woods.

Richard McLaren, the self-styled ambassador of the Republic of Texas secessionist movement, signed a "cease-fire document" with the Texas Rangers at about 2:15 p.m.By 4 p.m., McLaren and three followers abandoned their "embassy," a trailer in the remote Davis Mountains, and left behind 10 rifles, several handguns and up to 70 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

"They had a military-style ceremony at which they laid down their arms in a circle," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike Cox.

McLaren did not use the word surrender. "It was a cease-fire and they agreed to come out," Cox said. "We are delighted to finally resolve a standoff situation that has been in the national limelight in a peaceful manner."

The group members were taken into custody at a Texas Rangers' command center. There, they were reunited with McLaren's wife, Evelyn, who left before noon, and another member who left Friday.

Four of the five who surrendered were in jail, awaiting a bail hearing late Saturday. It was unclear where the fifth member was.

An explosives team was searching the area because authorities found cans of gasoline, batteries and electrical wires. McLaren told authorities the materials "were no longer armed," Cox said.

The Department of Public Safety was searching for Richard Frank Keyes III and Mike Matson. They disappeared into a heavily wooded canyon wearing green camouflage and were believed to be carrying two rifles and a 9mm pistol.

Authorities were using search dogs, airplanes and troopers on horseback to search for them, Cox said.

Before the group surrendered, Ralph Matson told The Associated Press: "My brother feels that he would rather die fighting for somebody's rights than spend the rest of his life in jail."

The 43-year-old McLaren, a Missouri native who moved to Texas in the 1970s, believes Texas was illegally annexed by the United States in 1845. He heads one of at least three factions calling themselves the Republic of Texas.

When Evelyn McLaren left the trailer, she told officials that those she left behind were ready to come out. At that time, details for the cease-fire were completed. The document was signed by Texas Rangers Capt. Barry Caver, Evelyn McLaren and McLaren, Cox said.

"It was only a page and a paragraph long," Cox said. "Essentially all it was was an agreement for a cease-fire."

The stalemate began last Sunday when several McLaren followers stormed the home of two neighbors in their remote suburb of the Davis Mountains and held the couple hostage in protest of the arrest of group member Robert Scheidt.

Scheidt was exchanged for the hostages early Monday, but the standoff continued. Scheidt, who faces felony charges of engaging in organized crime, surrendered Friday and reportedly told a state trooper: "I had to get out of there. I couldn't stand it anymore."