ELDORADO, Texas He was the man at the gates in the white cowboy hat and the folksy southern drawl.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran was one of the few outsiders whom the FLDS would initially allow onto the YFZ Ranch, and he cultivated a relationship with them. That relationship has been severely strained in the aftermath of the raid on the YFZ Ranch.
"I did not have the power to step in and stop this," Doran said. "The state of Texas had an investigation. They had a call, an outcry of a child they had to investigate and we are there to support that type of investigation. Where there is crimes that are being committed, and outcries being made, we're going to go in and investigate it."
In a lengthy and frank interview with the Deseret News on Tuesday, Doran spoke about the raid on the YFZ Ranch and what happens next.
"We will still attempt to cultivate that relationship the best that we can," he said. "I know there's a distrust there. I didn't bring that distrust on. I didn't change my way."
Doran defended the April 3 raid that led to the removal of hundreds of children from the YFZ Ranch. He said no one knew going onto the YFZ Ranch how many children were there, or how many would be removed. He said FLDS leaders had maintained there were approximately 100 men, women and children on the ranch.
Hundreds of children are returning home today after the Texas Supreme Court and Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals ruled there was not enough evidence to justify the removal of all of the children.
The raid was prompted by a phone call from a 16-year-old "Sarah," claiming she was pregnant and in an abusive, polygamous marriage to an older man. Even today, Doran remains unsure if Sarah really exists or is a hoax.
The criminal case is progressing, and he expects charges will likely be filed against FLDS members including sect leader Warren Jeffs.
"He is definitely a person of interest, obviously because of the warrant that was issued for his DNA and some of the pictures that came out," the sheriff said.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Deseret News: Looking back on this, what do you think? It's certainly taken many twists and turns.
Doran: It has, it has, and the twists and turns are not over with yet. I feel good about it. The criminal investigation side is proceeding forward nicely. The Rangers are the lead on that. This deal with Child Protective Services...the thing is there were victims that were definitely found on the ranch and they were removed. The ones that are being returned, that was Child Protective Services' goal from the get-go is to find out who were the victims when they were removed.
This is no different from any other Child Protective Services investigation, it's just on a larger scale. It's an unusual situation, it's a huge situation they had to deal with. But that is separate from the law enforcement investigation.
Deseret News: Should CPS have done what it did, though? Is there enough evidence to justify removing 460-plus children?
Doran: Of course, I can't comment on what Child Protective Services should or should not do. I do know what CPS was up against when they were out there. They were the ones conducting the interviews. They were the ones making the determinations and giving those results over to the district judge which caused the mass removal of the children. We were there to provide security for Child Protective Services as far as law enforcement went.
Deseret News: There was such a huge response with sheriffs from numerous counties, an armored personnel carrier, snipers. Was there ever a contingency plan in place for the eventuality of going out on the ranch? You can't just call all those resources in overnight.
Doran: Yeah, you can. When the call came in, the plan was formulated immediately how to logistically go in there and do it in the most calm and low-profile manner that we could. What's being portrayed is an armored personnel carrier, snipers, SWAT teams. In all actuality, all those were called in in case we needed them. They were never used for the initial entry when we, myself, two Texas Rangers, a handful of officers went to the gate that night with Child Protective Services and served a search warrant.
We talked to the people at the gate. We told them what was going on. The extra officers that were there, were basically there in the perimeter.
Deseret News: Did you have a plan in place for if and when you had to go on the ranch in any kind of capacity for a warrant?
Doran: We've always discussed it, but we have never had a plan in place for just in case this happened. The state of Texas has always got a contingency plan in place. Then you get together and form a plan and get the resources you need. It's not like when they moved here we mapped out this big huge plan, just in case.
Deseret News: The FLDS have said they cooperated from the beginning. From the gate, everything. That they provided everyone that was asked to talk to.
Doran: No, there was a level of accommodation, but I can't say there was a full level of cooperation. They met us at the gate, we laid out what we had going on. We were held up at the gate for about two to three hours. When the leader of the group showed up, that's when the Texas Ranger who was the affiant on the search warrant, presented him with the search warrant and handed it to him and that's when we took Child Protective Services in.
They set us up at the school ... (CPS) put in a request to see so many girls, but that request was not carried out. It was in small increments through the night and not as requested by Child Protective Services. There again, that was a Child Protective Services investigation.
Deseret News: When did it get to be more of a law enforcement investigation?
Doran: Child Protective Services conducted interviews all through the night, I mean through the full night and up to the day. Law enforcement started getting involved and stepping it up and brought the perimeter in, just to a staging area never at an entry deal by noon the next day. A new plan was formulated.
Even then, because not all of the children that were requested to be brought forward was brought forward to Child Protective Services. They were not satisfied that these people were fully cooperating like they requested they do. So it was requested to do a residential to residential search.
That was conducted by Child Protective Services. That was conducted by law enforcement and there was a representative of the FLDS with each search team. It was still done in a manner that was calm. It was still done in a manner that was respecting their culture and we were still doing a low-key operation at that point. Keep in mind, I didn't cultivate this relationship over four years for this plan to unfold the way I did. I'm not the mastermind behind it, we were simply cooperating with Child Protective Services. It's in our lap. We had to deal with it. There, I was still mediating between law enforcement, the FLDS, talking to the leadership there and trying to keep things as calm and orderly as possible.
Deseret News: But then it got to the point where search warrants started being executed and evidence started being rounded up.
Doran: Phase two, that's really what I can't talk about. The second search warrant was by the Texas Rangers based on evidence that was located on the property during the initial assistance with Child Protective Services. That's when further evidence of crimes were seen in plain sight by law enforcement.
Deseret News: What types of crimes?
Doran: We're talking about teenage girls, underage girls that were pregnant or had children. That's when that whole thing started surfacing.
Deseret News: What did you think about the decision to search the temple?
Doran: Not my decision.
We were searching for a victim on the property. She has not been located yet. So the scope of the first search warrant was still under way, and the fact that they were moving children around the property and keeping them out of sight. Basically, they were avoiding Child Protective Services and a lot of those were underage pregnant girls.
In the search warrant, it covers every building and documents related to the crime.
Really, I didn't have a factor in it one way or another. As a law enforcement professional, when you're executing a search warrant issued by a district judge, you're going to carry out that search warrant. If that search warrant names every building on the property, then every building on the property will be searched. That's just the way the search warrant's carried out.
I knew it was a sensitive subject and culturally, it was a very sensitive deal. There again, when it comes to enforcing the law, and executing a search warrant and uncovering crimes really law enforcement doesn't have a choice in the matter. The Rangers were in charge of that.
Deseret News: At one point did you start to wonder if this was a hoax? One court document filed claims that you knew going into this that Dale Barlow was in Arizona and "Sarah" didn't exist.
Doran: That is very incorrect information. That is information that's being put out there that is not accurate.
Upon initially approaching the gate with the Rangers, a phone call was made by the FLDS at the gate and they produced their phone to me stating, 'This gentleman is Dale Evans Barlow.' We never could get a full confirmation if indeed it was Dale Evans Barlow, we could not get full confirmation of his location.
You've got to understand we're acting under a search warrant and time is essential and we're acting upon a call. None of those things could be verified at that particular moment in time. A dialogue was made between myself and this gentleman that proclaimed to be Dale Evans Barlow. That still left in question, the victim Sarah. As far as we were concerned she was still in jeopardy, was still on the property and still in need of intervention.
What people need to understand is, even though we were out there, even for the fact that we were on the property and still looking for the victim the victim was still calling in on crisis hotlines not only in Texas but other locations. Even when women and children were removed from the property and they went to the shelters, this person who allegedly was the victim was still calling and giving descriptions of the location, 'It just rained,' 'They have these certain toys issued to the kids,' which was very accurate and credible information.
So we still had to go forward like there was a victim. Child Protective Services, Texas Rangers, we were all still looking for a victim because there was an ongoing outcry. Even to one of my officers.
Deseret News: Do you believe the call was a hoax?
Doran: Hard to say. We uncovered a Sarah Barlow that matched that description, and based on their fear of talking to law enforcement, who's to say? I don't have the proof and evidence in front of me to say that she does not exist. I do know there's a hoax caller and that is being investigated by law enforcement. When that investigation is complete and that person is found to be at fault, there will be vigorous charges against her in the state of Texas.
At the same time, when we were told there was no Sarah Barlow out there with that name, we uncovered several and one closely resembling that description. I really don't have a good answer for that. I guess you could say it's still under investigation.
Deseret News: Do you believe that crimes were being committed out there? Before this started?
Doran: We know polygamy's going on. It's just uncovering the evidence of that. No, I had no knowledge of any particular crimes going on.
All I know is in the four years of my knowledge of this group, the four years of contacts I have developed, both in the law enforcement field and outside the law enforcement field, we do know there's evidence of underage marriage within this group. We know it's a problem within the group. It's something we were aware of when they moved down here and learned about the group. Something we proclaimed to them, up to giving them a Texas penal code and pointing out, 'This will not be tolerated in Texas.'
But no, as far as direct knowledge of that crime going on out there, over the last four years, I did not have that.
Deseret News: Yet you also had a confidential informant. What was this confidential informant telling you?
Doran: All I can say and you know any law enforcement officer's not going to uncover their confidential informant confidential informant is plural. This is a person, or persons, that I have relied on the last four years to educate me on this group. A person that, if something came up, I can call this person, run it by 'em and they're going to be in the know of what this means, or who this is, or what's going on in this particular situation.
This confidential informant did not lead up to this raid. This confidential informant had no part of that. During the search warrants, this person persons, actually was called upon to clarify some things, evidences that were uncovered and bring in some of the FLDS teachings that would match these particular evidences that were uncovered.
Those confidential informants were used as a resource of information.
Deseret News: Are they anti-FLDS?
Doran: These confidential informants are very credible and have a very neutral point of view on both sides. That's basically where I'll leave that.
Deseret News: Do you think it was a good decision to bus all of the children off the ranch?
Doran: I feel like they had to get them to a location where they could interview them in an area without a lot of influences. There was an ongoing law enforcement operation out there. Yes, if CPS was going to perform their duties, they were going to have to do it in a manner that was most conducive to their investigation. If they felt it was the best decision at the time, so be it. Again, it was acting on an order from a district judge.
Deseret News: You've spent years cultivating a relationship with the FLDS and the people on the YFZ Ranch. How do you think your relationship is going to be now?
Doran: I did not bring this on them. The call came in to assist Child Protective Services. We always assist. We pulled in the law enforcement due to the size of the operation. We pulled in the law enforcement that was necessary to carry out the operation. My job was support and logistics and communications. I guess being the sheriff of Schleicher County, and this is where their home is, and this is where the operation took place naturally, I guess, I'm going to get the blame.
You know, that's a false blame. My relationship with them is I've always been up front with them for the past four years. I've had a good working relationship with them. At the same time, if they are committing crimes out there, which crimes have been committed and it is being investigated, then that is their problem. It's not something I brought upon them.
It's something as a law enforcement officer, we're going to investigate any problems, with any resident, within Schleicher County if we're called upon to do that. And we're going to use the resources necessary to get that investigation carried out.
So they can point the blame but they have problems within their community that needs to be taken care of. If there was no problem, there wouldn't be a lot of victims coming away from that culture doing outcries.
Deseret News: How do you think your relationship with them is going to be from here on out?
Doran: We still have a dialogue with them, believe it or not. They have a lot of anger towards me, and I guess I can appreciate that because they don't want to accept the facts of the situation. But we do still have communication, through my chief deputy.
We still maintain a level of communication, where if we have subpoenas that come in we have someone we can call upon. If Child Protective Services comes in, we can call them and they'll meet us at the gate. We still have some contact on the inside.
As far as our position goes, we have always been neutral. We're still neutral, we're just conducting a criminal investigation. I don't feel any differently then, than I do now. I have a job to do, we're going to carry that out. If there's crimes being uncovered, we're going to investigate those crimes.
Deseret News: The FLDS have requested 300 voter cards. You're up for re-election. How do you think that's going to factor into it?
Doran: I don't think it will be a big role in our local politics. Now, different scenarios could play out if they decide to run one of theirs as a write-in.
The community has always stood behind me during my last 12 years in office ... so I've always done well. After this operation, the citizens still stand behind me. The community during this operation, and there was a time for need, we called for that help the community came out in droves and brought love, volunteerism, monetary donations, shelter. The whole community came out and supported law enforcement and supported the women and children out here.
If nothing else, this has drawn the community closer.
Deseret News: Is there concern this will be thrown out, the fruit of the poisonous tree?
Doran: Law enforcement went in there at the request of CPS, they acted on good faith. The second search warrant was produced because there was obvious evidence in plain sight of crimes, that's acting on the second scope of the search. I feel that law enforcement will be fine on that.
I think there will be challenges, I can't speak on that. I don't believe it will hinder this investigation. That's something the Texas Ranges will be dealing with. They're the investigators and that's the burden they're going to have to prove in court.
Deseret News: What do you make of the marriage statement (pledging to no longer perform underage marriages) the FLDS put out?
Doran: All I can say is I hope that they're being honest about it and I hope that if Texas did not accomplish anything, at least we know underage children will be protected. Let's just hope they follow through with it and they're being honest about it. Time will tell.