Ruby Ridge and Waco are two nightmares now slowly fading from the public mind, but not because some law enforcement officials have learned anything. In Roby, Illinois, a 51-year-old widow named Shirley Ann Allen was ordered by a local judge to submit to a psychological profile after her relatives expressed concern about her behavior. When the police came to take her away, Mrs. Allen would have none of it. She met the arresting officers at the door with shotgun in hand, pumped off a couple of shells into the air, and graciously declined to come out.
Twelve days later, she was still declining, but so were the police who had laid siege to her house. On the first day of the siege—dubbed “Roby Ridge” by a local wag—state troopers surrounded her residence, turned off the power, closed up her well, flooded the place with searchlights, called in relatives to beg her to come out, fired beanbag bullets at her, and—was she to be spared nothing?—played Barry Manilow music around the clock. Still she didn’t budge, to the dismay of the cops. “We’d like her to start going about business as usual,” police spokesman Mark McDonald announced to an alarmed public. “I think most people would seek help before they die of starvation or lack of water.” Whom exactly does Mr. McDonald expect Mrs. Allen to contact? The police, perhaps?
Around the same time, a white separatist and his family were also declining to come out of their home in La Verkin, Utah. Out there, however, there were no bullhorns, searchlights, or Manilow music, but only a lone county sheriff with a little common sense.
“Sure, we could go surround the place with SWAT teams and yell for him to come on out with his hands up,” said Sheriff Glenwood Humphries of the effort to serve an arrest warrant on Johnny Bangerter. “But I’m not going to get a deputy or anybody killed over something as minor as a failure-to-appear warrant. The last thing I want is the federal government to come in here and pull another Waco. Johnny hasn’t done anything that the feds would be interested in, and even if they were, the local sheriff should be the one to handle it.”
Meanwhile, back in Roby, Mrs. Allen remained at large and the crisis of the untaken mental tests continued, but even the police were starting to doubt that they handled the situation correctly. “Has the police presence aggravated her situation?” asked Illinois State Police Director Terrance Gainer. “Common sense would tell you that it might.”
“The frustration is,” Gainer expanded philosophically, “we seem to have as a society so little faith in judges . . . and law enforcement. We’re first to conclude there’s mendacity involved.” Why is that, chief?
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