Nineteen-Hour 'Standoff' Ends With Law Enforcement Officers Destroying An Empty House
from the we'll-teach-you-to-be-vacant! dept
The Cherokee County (KS) Sheriff's Department engaged in a fruitless 19-hour standoff with a vacant residence. On the 20th hour, the fugitive house was finally taken down.
A SWAT truck with a battering ram attached was used to poke holes and tear apart the house in an attempt to drive the nonexistent suspect out. As deputies became unable to find him, they began taking their frustration out on couches, beds, lamps, clothing, toys, and even the family’s Christmas tree was ripped through a window and smashed to bits. The write-up at The Free Thought Project contains a decent summation of the ridiculous ordeal, but the real fun comes in reading the play-by-play at the Joplin Globe, which captures the shifting narrative provided by the Sheriff's Department.
The entire time, Nita Lane, the homeowner, was trying to tell the cops that Alexius was not there and does not live there.
The sheriff, quite expectedly, remains unapologetic. Despite being told by the victim that Alexius was not in her house, [Sheriff David] Groves maintains that his officers acted in the best possible manner.
“It appeared using that tool [infra-red camera] there was somebody in the attic. As it turns out, now we know that was incorrect. But nonetheless that was the information we were operating under at the time,” said Groves.
It begins on December 15th, with the site declaring "Joplin man in standoff with law enforcement in Galena." Granted, this was several hours before it was discovered that a more accurate headline would have been "Joplin house in standoff with law enforcement."
Galena police and agents with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI served a search warrant about 9 p.m. Monday at 1009 E. Fifth St. looking for Alexius and removed a woman and four children from the home. In the course of serving the warrant, they learned that Alexius was hiding in the attic of the single-story house and might be armed.That's not really what they learned. They used a thermal imaging camera and thought they detected someone hiding in the attic. So, the standoff began, with the sheriff confidently stating they'd be able to wait out the fugitive member of the local gang concern, "Joplin Honkies," thanks to the department's bench depth.
"Time is on our side," the sheriff said. "We have the luxury of being able to rotate officers out. At some point, he's going to have to come out of there."Five hours later, Sheriff Groves admitted that the man the occupants of the house had already stated wasn't in the house was, in fact, not in the house.
Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves said local, state and federal law enforcement officers late into the day on Tuesday had believed that Doug Alexius, 40, of Joplin, was inside the home and armed, although no shots had been fired. Left unmentioned was the damage done to the house in search of the fugitive who wasn't there. Law enforcement officers fired flash bangs into the home and used an armored vehicle-mounted ram to punch holes in the attic. The officers also tore apart the inside of the home in their futile search.
Groves said a search that ended at 5:30 p.m. concluded that Alexius was not in the home.
It wasn't until the following day that the damage done to the home was addressed. The FBI agreed to pay for the destruction, but Sheriff Groves refused to shoulder any of the blame, despite initiating the pointless standoff.
"As for why specific tactics were utilized or items removed, those questions would need to be directed to the teams involved in that action," Groves wrote in an email to the Globe. "The teams utilized were from the KBI and FBI. The FBI indicated yesterday (Tuesday) that they would be paying for the damages to the home."He also wrote:
"The information we received indicates he was in the residence that morning… Either that information was inaccurate or he left prior to law enforcement arrival. We have no reason to believe that he left the residence once a perimeter was established."This last sentence is problematic, given statements made later by other law enforcement officials.
The standoff that wasn't included police dogs, the evacuation of nearby houses, a cordoned-off block, officers from three law enforcement agencies (FBI, Sheriff's Department, Kansas Bureau of Investigation) and a plane circling overhead. Groves had "no reason" to believe the suspect had escaped undetected because that outcome verged on impossible. And yet, his statement was directly contradicted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation two days later, starting with a justification for the havoc wreaked on the empty house:
Doug Younger, the agent for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation who oversaw part of what has been described as a standoff between agents and an armed man reputed to be a member of the Joplin Honkies gang, walked through the house of single mother Juanita Lane on Tuesday night after it was all over. Faith. Just the sort of thing we like to see in our law enforcement officers -- especially those willing to tear apart a family's home in service of their gut feelings. Younger actually congratulates himself for the house not being completely razed during the search for the nonexistent fugitive.
Windows were broken out and a ram had been used to batter a hole in the back of the modest white house so agents could reach the attic where Doug Alexius was believed to be hiding. Throughout the 20 1/2-hour ordeal, the children's pet rabbit scampered around the house.
Younger, who oversees the statewide SWAT team for the KBI, told the Globe on Friday that he believes Alexius was in that house the whole time although the wanted man wasn't found after agents combed through the house with the help of a robot and dogs.
"I believe he was there, but we were going to have to tear the place down to find him," Younger said.
"I feel like we did due diligence, but at the same time we stopped before we tore the place to the ground," Younger said.Good for him. But Younger still holds the belief that the wily Joplin Honky either burrowed into the house's foundation or somehow made his way past the three-agency dragnet surrounding the house. This belief helps Younger justify the damage done to the house while simultaneously allowing him to brag about his agency's admirable restraint.
The FBI will cover the damage, which is nice. The courts have already made it clear law enforcement has no obligation to reimburse property owners for damaged houses, vehicles, or personal effects. That a federal agency would step up and assist the homeowner in this fashion is commendable, even if everything leading up to that point was a debacle.