SAN ANGELO, Texas — Caleb Wallace, the co-founder of the San Angelo Freedom Defenders and West Texas Minutemen State Coordinator has died from causes related to COVID-19, according to an update on gofundme by his wife, Jessica Wallace.

“Caleb has peacefully passed on. He will forever live in our hearts and minds❤️,” reads the most recent update on the campaign that was set up to help Wallace’s three children and his wife, a stay-at-home mother who is expecting a fourth child in late September

While Wallace had become a semi-regular feature in local news through his conservative activism, it was his battle with COVID-19 that garnered the national spotlight after his family’s struggle was featured in an article published in the San Angelo Standard Times on August 22.

His organization of the “Freedom Rally”, a protest against state and local mask requirements during the summer of 2020 made him a figure of some prominence among those in the community who were opposed to mask mandates.

The New York Times reports San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter commented in an interview, “They believed the coronavirus was a hoax and they felt that the government was being too heavy-handed when it came to masks.”

Opposition to such coronavirus mitigation measures lead Wallace to found the San Angelo Freedom Defenders with like-minded local, Coco Simpson. The Freedom Defenders held local rallies like the San Angelo Freedom Parade in July of 2020 and the October 2020 Rally to End COVID-19 Tyranny.

“It’s pacifying the 1-2% speaking the loudest and leaving the rest of us behind,” said Simpson in an interview about Governor Greg Abbott’s July 2020 mask mandate, “If you want to wear a mask feel free to do so. I don’t choose to and I shouldn’t wear one because it makes you feel better.”

Wallace reportedly believed that vaccine mandates were also an infringement on people’s constitutional rights.

In an August 2020 article New York Times article, Wallace’s father attested to his son’s stance against vaccine and mask requirements, saying, “After watching all of the government’s efforts here, he decided he wanted to do something about it”

“I can’t tell the difference if I have freedom to breathe free air or breathe it behind… sucking air behind this thing,” Wallace said while speaking to local officials at a COVID-19 Update held by the City of San Angelo on November 13, 2020.

“My health has nothing to do with you. As harsh as that sounds, but our constitutional, fundamental rights protect that. Nothing else.” said Wallace. “…I’m sorry if that comes off as blunt and that I don’t care. I do care. I care more about freedom than I do for your personal health.”

Wallace’s most recent public action was in the form of an open letter, published locally on April 10, 2021, to the San Angelo Independent School District calling on the school board to “rescind ALL COVID-related policies immediately!”

Despite his aversion to vaccine mandates and masking, Jessica Wallace said Caleb originally chose to take several non-prescription supplements like zinc, aspirin and vitamins to treat his symptoms. Additionally, Jessica Wallace said her husband was taking the deworming medicine ivermectin, which is not FDA-approved for COVID-19 treatment. Experts say ivermectin — often used to treat parasites in animals, sometimes in people — also has zero evidence of efficacy in treating COVID-19.

Ivermectin, which can be taken orally or topically, is also not an anti-viral.

The FDA and several state officials say they’ve seen an uptick in calamitous use of the drugs, particularly tablets used to treat parasitic worms in horses. While ivermectin is approved for humans to treat certain skin conditions (rosacea) and certain external parasites like head lice, the FDA warns this ivermectin is different than the one used in animals.