FLDS at ranch detail raid by Texas officials

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2008 6:59 p.m. MDT

A Midland County Sheriff's Department armored vehicle is seen during the raid on the Yearning For Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas, April 4.

Photo provided by FLDS attorney

SAN ANGELO — Texas authorities entered the YFZ ranch last week armed with a search warrant, automatic weapons, SWAT teams, helicopters, dozens of law enforcement vehicles — including an armored personnel carrier — and were met with no resistance from the more than 600 residents of the polygamous community.

"They first got under the gate under false pretenses," said Isaac, a 33-year-old FLDS man who did not want to be identified because he has several children who are now under state custody. "They had police cars box in the whole property."

Tela Mange, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the operation went well.

"Everyone was really pleased with how well things went," she said. "There were no shots fired, no incidents. We credit that to the time the sheriff (Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran) and the Texas Ranger captain spent developing a relationship with the leadership at the ranch."

Officials said the raid was prompted by a cell phone call from a 16-year-old girl who said she lived at the ranch, was pregnant and was being abused by her 50-year-old husband.

Texas Rangers, along with other law enforcement, sought a search warrant to enter the YFZ ranch and search for the girl, who has not yet been located. FLDS members say they do not know the girl and they believe the phone call is bogus.

Members of the FLDS faith recorded what happened over the three-day raid, using video, audio, still photography, and by writing down their personal observations.

Officials confiscated much of that documentation, but not all of it, said FLDS spokesman Rod Parker.

Officers in full SWAT gear positioned themselves behind massive limestone rocks carved out of a quarry on the YFZ ranch during the search. Locked gates were forced open, doors were busted in, safes were ransacked and homes were searched many times, said Parker.

"They went onto the ranch under one phone call that was a pretext," said Parker. "It seems obvious to me they came prepared to do much more than take one girl out of there."

While some may question the use of an armored personnel carrier — believing it's overkill — Mange said the carrier was not there to make entry on the ranch.

"It was there to make sure everything went well and we could get someone out quickly if we needed to," she said.

Mange would not disclose the number of officers involved in the raid, but did say there were troopers, non-uniformed investigators and Texas Rangers and officers from four different county sheriff agencies, the San Angelo police department, and the Texas game warden.

Mange confirmed that the Department of Public Safety is continuing to provide security at several locations in San Angelo in connection with the FLDS situation and are continuing with a criminal investigation that spans several areas. She would not elaborate on the specifics on the investigation, but did say the partner agency is Child and Family Protective Services.

Midland County Chief Deputy Ed Krevit said the armored personnel carrier came from his department and was there to protect officers.

"We like to compare it to being a bullet proof vest for 12 officers," said Krevit. "We were asked by the Texas Rangers to assist and as far as I know, there wasn't any resistance."

On Tuesday, 12 days after the raid began, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said it was unclear if the girl at the center of the raid was among the 416 children taken from the ranch.

"We cannot confirm that we have (the girl)," said Marleigh Meisner.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS