Increasing Governmental Heavy-handedness — Reminiscences of the San Juan County Antiquities Raid, and Bunkerville Standoff

This story provides an opportunity to follow the recent bread crumbs regarding the fight for liberty, the current status of fundamental rights in the United States, and increasing governmental heavy-handedness. 

Long after Waco and Ruby Ridge, there are several relatively recent events that help provide milemarkers on a relevant time line.  First of all, we are approaching the 10-year anniversary of the Antiquities Raid in San Juan County, Utah.  Many Rangefire readers will remember this as essentially the jump-starter of BLM Special Agent Dan Love ‘s unbridled reign of terror, which, five years later, ultimately culminated with his heavy-handed assault, and militaristic invasion of the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014.

For those unfamiliar with the San Juan County raid, in the spring of 2009, following a sting operation, in total disregard for local law enforcement and applicable state laws, federal authorities amassed an army of hundreds of federal agents and dozens of vehicles in a predawn raid, kicking in doors with no-knock warrants and arresting citizens in their beds at gunpoint for nonviolent crimes—citizens who under the U.S. Constitution are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This was not a drug raid. It had no ties to the War on Terror. There were no violent criminals involved or serious flight risks. Yet, surrounded by swarms of federal agent storm troopers, these people were physically dragged from their homes and hauled away in handcuffs while their children looked on in shock and horror. Over twenty people in the community and surrounding areas were arrested in this manner. As soon as they were able to post bail and be released from custody, two of those arrested (including a prominent and much-loved local doctor) committed suicide rather than continue to be dogged, humiliated and treated this way by the federal government. In the end, not a single one of those arrested that morning received a prison sentence, and the government’s own star witness also committed suicide.

In the Spring of 2014, the federal government and its associated “security forces” launched an all-out military assault on the Bundy Family and their cattle, complete with snipers, armed convoys, air cover, and a no-fly zone – the end result of which was ultimate dismissal of all charges against the Bundy family with prejudice, based on the federal misconduct, deceit, and heavy-handed mishandling of the case.

In both those cases, it was not the DEA, ICE, INS, IRS, ATF, FBI, CIA or other federal agency normally associated with such brutal tactics that was responsible for these actions. It was the Department of the Interior, the administrative department responsible for oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (and mismanagement of the Native American Trust Fund), Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Land Management, is-management. It was in its capacity as a land and resource management agency (BLM)—for we the people—that it engaged in such thuggish and heavy-handed tactics typically thought possible only in totalitarian regimes like the Third Reich or Stalin’s Soviet Union.  But let us not forget the actions of the FBI and Oregon State Police, at the insistence of the Department of Interior and Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and their well-orchestrated massacre of LaVoy Finicum in January, 2016. If Finicum’s death had occurred anywhere else in the world under exactly the same circumstances, it would be universally described as an assassination.

But increasingly, such actions are not only perpetrated by federal agencies.  In December 2008, a state SWAT team, armed with semiautomatic rifles and acting in conjunction with state agencies under the direction of federal agents, invaded the home of a family in Pennsylvania. They herded the family onto the couches in the living room and kept guns trained on parents, children, toddlers, and infants from approximately 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. According to firsthand witnesses, members of the team were aggressive and belligerent, and the children were traumatized. At some point, the first SWAT team was relieved by another team that tried to befriend the family

This family had run a large, well-known food cooperative storehouse for many years on the western side of Philadelphia — the same city where our Constitution was born. The family was not permitted a phone call, and they were not advised as to what crime they were being accused of. They were not read their rights. Agents took tens of thousands of dollars worth of food, including the family’s personal stock of food for the coming year. All of their computers and all of their cell phones were also taken, as well as phone and contact records. According to sources close to this incident, a person who might have been an undercover agent came to the storehouse and claimed to have a sick father, wanting to join the co-op. The owners had refused and given him names of other businesses and health food stores closer to his home. Not coincidentally, the same man was part of the raid. The food cooperative was shut down, but there was no rational explanation or justification for this extreme violation of constitutional rights.

According to sources close to the incident, the incident may have stemmed from discovery of a bit of “non-institutional” food in a college food-service freezer that was tracked down by a county sanitation official to this same food co-op storehouse. The college’s own student food cooperative was widely known for its strident ideological stance about eating organic foods. It seems that the college co-op had joined the well-known food cooperative in order to buy organic foods in bulk from a national organic food distributor, which services buying clubs across the nation. The sanitation official evidently contacted the Department of Agriculture. After the first contact by state officials, the storehouse reportedly wrote the USDA a letter requesting assistance and guidelines for complying with the law. The letter was never answered. Rather, the USDA agent tried several times to infiltrate the co-op, as described above. When his attempts failed, the SWAT team showed up!

Happenings such as this are seldom reported by the mainstream American media, but they are becoming more commonplace. In the spring of 2008, acting on a false anonymous tip, Texas State Police stormed a tight-knit religious community in West Texas and ripped four hundred children, including nursing infants, from their parents and their homes. A nationwide media frenzy ensued. Spin doctors painted the community as composed of religious zealots, uncaring of women and children. But as with the dark portrayal of  virtually anyone who doesn’t toe the standard line, the tale was mostly spin. At first justified by a Texas trial court, the abusive actions of Texas Child Protective Services were quickly struck down by Texas appellate courts. After months of separation and heartache, the children were finally returned to their families, their safe haven restored. But the children and their families were left traumatized. 

But What is Being Done? Is there any improvement in this heavy-handed trend?

Here’s the latest in the growing trail of bread crumbs.  It reportedly happened just last month in Arizona. On February 25, 2019 a pregnant mother took her 2-year-old son to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, Arizona because he had a fever of over 100. The doctor instructed the mother to take him to the emergency room because he is unvaccinated and she feared he could have meningitis.

The doctor called the emergency room at Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa to let them know the boy would be arriving.

But after leaving the doctor’s office, the boy showed signs of improvement. He was laughing and playing with his siblings, and his temperature moved closer to normal. Around 6:30 pm, the mother called the doctor to let her know the toddler no longer had a fever and she would not be taking him to the emergency room.

In Arizona, parents may decline vaccinations for their child based on personal, religious, or medical exemptions, but the mother was still concerned that the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) would come after her. One can’t blame her for being afraid, as unvaccinated families have been targets of dystopian crackdowns and witch hunts of late.

The doctor assured her DCS would not come after her. According to police records, the mother then agreed to take her son to the hospital.

This is when things took a particularly nasty turn, reports AZCentral:

About three hours later, the hospital contacted the doctor to advise her that the child had not shown up and the mother wasn’t answering her phone, according to police records. The doctor contacted DCS.

A DCS caseworker called Chandler Police and “requested officers to check the welfare of a two year old infant,” according to police records. A caseworker said he was on his way to the house.

It was about 10:30 p.m. when two police officers knocked on the family’s door. The officers heard someone coughing.

Officer Tyler Cascio wrote in a police report that he knocked on the door several times but no one answered. (source)

The police then asked a neighbor to call the mother to let her know they wanted to speak to her. Meanwhile, the boy’s father contacted the police:

Police dispatch told the officers that a man at the home had called requesting that they call him. They called, and the man identified himself as the sick boy’s father.

The officer said they told the father they needed to enter the home for DCS to check on the child. The father refused, explaining that his son’s “fever broke and he was fine,” according to police records. (source)

 Then things escalated.

Despite the father’s attempt to assure police his child was fine, things escalated.

The caseworker informed officers that DCS planned to obtain a “temporary custody notice” from a judge to remove the child for emergency medical aid.

Officers then consulted with the police criminal investigations bureau and SWAT.

Yes, SWAT.

I know – it is outrageous and terrifying.

After 1:00 AM, officers kicked down the family’s door.

One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.

The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. (source)

Neither of the parents was arrested.

Officials took all three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.

Let’s pause here for a moment to reflect on something: Authorities took the children under the guise of caring about their well-being. The fact that armed strangers snatching children away from their parents and siblings in the middle of the night could be, I don’t know – TRAUMATIC – didn’t seem to cross their minds.

Unbelievable.

 Then the “legal process” took 10 days.

The parents had to wait 10 days to see a judge and begin fighting to get their children back.

Attorneys for the parents said the children hadn’t seen each other since being taken from their parents’ home. The parents had only had one visit with their older children. DCS officials told the parents the toddler couldn’t make that visit because he was at a medical appointment.

The state’s attorney argued that the children shouldn’t be returned to their parents yet because they’d been hostile to DCS workers and weren’t cooperating. He said the parents had attended a DCS visit with members of Arizona DCS Oversight Group who were combative toward DCS workers. He said the grandfather had tried to videotape a meeting with DCS, and recording is not allowed to protect the privacy of the children. (source)

DCS wanted the parents to undergo psychological evaluations, the father was required to undergo drug testing, and the grandparents agreed to background checks so they could become temporary caregivers for the children.

While everything about this case is horrifying, there is a bit of good news.

The family has a powerful ally:

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who helped craft legislation requiring DCS to obtain a warrant before removing a child from their parents or guardians in non-emergency circumstances, said she was outraged by the response of police and DCS officials in the case.

“It was not the intent (of the law) that the level of force after obtaining a warrant was to bring in a SWAT team,” Townsend said. “The imagery is horrifying. What has our country become that we can tear down the doorway of a family who has a child with a high fever that disagrees with their doctor?” (source)

In Arizona, DCS used to be able to remove children from their homes without warrants, but that changed last July when lawmakers designated limited circumstances for removing a child from their parent without a warrant:

DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is at imminent risk of harm and there’s no less-intrusive alternative to removal, or DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is a victim of sexual or physical abuse that can only be evaluated by trained medical personnel…

…Concern over DCS abusing loopholes in the system prompted a second round of legislation in 2018. The restrictions designated “exigent circumstances” when DCS may remove children without a warrant. Removing the child must be so dire that there’s no time to use the electronic system to gain authorization from a judge who’s on call 24/7. (source)

 Townsend wants a review of this legislation.

Townsend wants lawmakers to review the procedures that led to police using force, traumatizing a family, and putting three children in state custody.

She said that the fact that DCS obtained a court-approved warrant proves there wasn’t a life-threatening emergency.

Outside the courthouse, Townsend said she didn’t know the parents personally but was disturbed by the case.

“It was brought to my attention that these parents may have been targeted by the medical community because they hadn’t vaccinated their children,” she said.

Townsend said parents who don’t vaccinate their children because of medical concerns aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such. She worried physicians were using it as a reason to refer parents to DCS.

“I think if DCS decides to use this as a factor they would be violating a parent’s right to have a personal exemption, a religious exemption and perhaps a medical exemption,” she said. (source)

The family wants to warn others about DCS.

The father sent The Republic a statement. His family is scared, he said, but they feel compelled to warn other families:

We have been through a very traumatic experience with our encounter with DCS. We would like other parents out there to know and realize the amount of power DCS has over the welfare of your children. Even though we remain confident in our innocence through our case, it is immediately an uphill struggle of what to do or not to do. Even if you do not agree with them or the process in which they follow.

We thought they did not have the right to check on our children because they were getting better, from what they last heard about from us. We were in our home tending to our sick kids and did not want to be bothered in this tough time of illness.  With multiple children it is difficult to keep up their needs while they are ill, and to be bothered in the middle of the night by DCS was not something we were ready to tackle.

No matter what we though was right, it turned tragic with the removal of all of our children. The process of removal in our opinion was uncalled for and we would like to see the laws/process change when dealing with expedited removal of children.

Our children have sure been through a traumatizing experience and hope they have not been harmed psychologically or emotionally as we are a very happy family who love each other and would do anything for each other.

We hope to see a positive outcome for our trial, but worry about what the kids have been though. We would like to see some sort of public service announcement by DCS to inform other parents out there that this could happen to them, because nobody, especially children should have to go through what we are going through. We love our children and are doing everything possible to get them back to us. (source)

“What about parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their child?” Townsend said. “Parents felt the child was fine. Next thing we know, the Gestapo is at their door.”

The three children have been placed with their grandparents, and the parents are able to see them but have no idea when – or if – they will get them back.