04 December 2012

An Ambush in Bartlette: 12

[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7] . . . [Chapter 8] . . . [Chapter 9] . . . [Chapter 10] . . . [Chapter 11]

If there was a Hell, the last month was surely its attempt to manifest itself in Bartlette County. And, much like one might expect from Hell, just as you started to have some hope that things were getting better that hope was snatched away and more pain was piled on. This week had been filled with shock and pain. It was eight on Friday evening when Yusif found himself mulling over these dark thoughts. He was still at the courthouse. He stared at the bricks in the wall of his office trying to process everything that had happened.

It started the Friday before because Father Tolton went to question the ambush victims who were in the hospital and he claimed that Mark Carr woke up and told him that Sergeant Ian Minor was involved in the ambush. Instead of coming to the Sheriff or Brad about this, Father Tolton had somehow gotten in contact with FBI agent investigating the attack. On Sunday, Dave Jordan, an Investigator for the Sheriff's Department and the Sheriff's stepson, drove to Roanoke and beat the living tar out of the attorney who had come to Bartlette and had that enigmatic conversation with Yusif. The photos showed a man who had his face beaten so badly his eyes were swollen shut and several teeth were gone. Monday Morning Squire died unexpectedly when something went wrong after his surgery. Later that day, Ed Boyd died less than an hour after the hospital unhooked him from life support. Meanwhile, both Brad and the Sheriff had gotten wind that something was going on between the Father Tolton, the FBI, and the State Police; however, neither of them could get answers from anyone about what was going on.

Tuesday morning they found out. Sometime between four and five in the morning a large number of State Police, FBI agents, and Federal Marshals arrived in Bartlette County with both search and arrest warrants. They arrested the other two investigators from the Sheriff's Department, Jeff Sanger and Ian Minor, as well as the Chief of Police for Yared and his two senior officers. They searched all of their houses, the houses of everyone caught in the ambush, the offices of the Yared Police Department (three rooms in the town hall), and the new Sheriff's Office which had been set up in the abandoned stores across from the courthouse. The initial warrants were federal, but State Police agents went to the magistrate's office that morning and got murder and drug distribution charges in Virginia as well. Everyone was in shock; even Brad had seemed at a loss as to what he should do. However, Brad never remained quiescent for long. By noon, he was calling people and demanding answers. When federal and state agents proved intransigent, Brad started calling political allies both in the Virginian and federal government. Yusif had known that Brad was politically well connected, but even he was surprised at the breadth of those connections. Before the day was out, Brad got a United States Senator to call the FBI and several Virginia Delegates and Senators to call both the Attorney General and State Police headquarters. Faced with this pressure, the agencies had agreed to brief Brad on what was happening, but they absolutely refused to bring the Sheriff into the loop; they even made Brad sign non-disclosure documents which forbade him from talking to anyone in general and specifically forbade him from talking to the Sheriff or anyone in law enforcement. Yusif knew this because when he pressed Brad to tell him what was going on Brad showed him the documents. Brad spent most of his Wednesday and Thursday out of the county, getting briefings. This left Yusif to handle court, help Paula prep for the hundreds of cases being presented to the next grand jury, answer the calls from upset citizens who did not understand what was going on, and fend off the press. The ambush and explosion had gotten national attention for a day or two, but Brad handled most of that. The story of lawmen killing lawmen and a county basically being invaded by federal agents made the press rabid. It seemed like every five minutes a different news agency was calling and one twenty-four hour channel even sent a team to ambush Yusif as he left his house Thursday morning.

On Thursday, Mark Carr died. Despite increased observation after Father Tolton talked to the FBI, the deputy never woke again. The only person who could confirm the Father's statement about what happened in the Veteran's Hospital was Andy Carr and he had dropped off the face of the Earth.

On Friday, the plan was to bring the accused lawmen to court for their pretrial hearing. Unlike other states Virginia does not do an early arraignment. However, defendants still have to be brought before a judge within a certain amount of time after they are charged so the judge can make sure they know what they were charged with, assign them attorneys if they cannot afford one, and perhaps adjust their bond. The State Police were going to bring the three investigators from the Sheriff's Department and the three officers from Yared one at a time to the courthouse from the various regional jails where they were stashed. None of them were being housed at local jails and no more than two were being kept at the same jail, segregated from each other even there. The State Police intended to bring the accused to court one at a time, staggered at hour intervals throughout the entire day. They would not even release a list of which defendant was coming to court at what time.

Things started falling apart immediately. At nine-fifteen three troopers showed up with Deputy Chief Haley from Yared and went to escort him in the side door through which prisoners always went. They found the door locked and a sign on it noting that entry through this doorway was limited to court security officers approved by the Sheriff. The troopers tried knocking on the door, but they got no answer. Then they took the prisoner around to the front door of the courthouse and found eight deputies waiting for them. The deputies informed them that because the Sheriff's Department was solely responsible for security at the courthouse only deputies were allowed in the courthouse under arms. The troopers refused to give up their firearms and after a short standoff returned to their cars. Of course, the entire thing was filmed by two different news channels and a bunch of people with cell phones. It was all over the internet within minutes.

The state police tried to get someone to order the Sheriff to allow them into the courthouse with their pistols. By one in the afternoon Brad had refused to involve the Commonwealth Attorney's office in an argument between the state police and the Sheriff and Sheriff Minton had told the Virginia Attorney General that as a constitutional officer the Sheriff did not take orders from the him or anyone else in Richmond. A lawyer from the Attorney General's office in Abingdon was on his way and expected to be at the courthouse by two.

In the meantime, their carefully planned schedule fell apart. The back parking lot was filled with state police cars and the four with the defendants in them were purposefully parked so that they were in different parts of the lot. Thinking back on it, Yusif marveled that no one had thought to call the oncoming troopers and tell them to go back - or at least to divert to someplace secure. The back parking lot may have been reserved, but it was in no way secure. Two of its sides had woods right up to the pavement. On top of all that, newsmen and plain old regular citizens kept putting videos of the troopers back there on the news and internet. It was almost predictable that something would go wrong.

At around one-thirty it did. Andy Carr came out of the woods and unloaded a revolver into the front window of the nearest car with a prisoner in it. Most of the bullets were stopped by the window glass and the two that got through lodged in the empty driver's side seat. The prisoner in the back, Lieutenant Mickelson from the Yared police department, did not even have time to duck for cover before all the shots had been fired and Andy ran back into the woods with six troopers in pursuit. Ten minutes later they had him under arrest and took him off to jail to face attempted murder charges. Then, they also started driving the prisoners back to the jails.

By three some lady who was an assistant attorney general showed up and Judge Isom got her, the state police first sergeant, the Sheriff, and the county attorney in his chambers and the yelling was loud enough and the old walls thin enough that it could be heard out in the courtroom. The words were not quite discernible, but it was very clear that the judge was reading them all the riot act. When they came out of the judge's office all of the people who went in were steaming. The assistant attorney general and first sergeant went to one table in front of the bench; Sheriff Minton and the county attorney went to the other. Judge Isom went straight to his bench, sat down, and immediately announced his decision.

"This Court finds that the special circumstances in these cases merit the following special conditions and behaviors. At any time one of the following six defendants - Mike Haley, Oscar Mickelson, Charles Poplin, David Jordan, Ian Minor, or Jefferson Sanger - are in the courthouse the Bartlette County Sheriff's Department shall maintain its duty as the primary security force for the courthouse. However, the Virginia State Police shall maintain its self-imposed duty as the primary security force dealing with the prisoners. To achieve both of these missions, the Court hereby orders that on any date when any of these defendants are in the courtroom there shall be one bailiff from the Sheriff's Department and one bailiff from the State Police in the courtroom from eight a.m. until all of that day's cases are completed and the courthouse closed. As well, the front door of the courthouse shall be guarded by two deputies and two state policemen during that same period of time and whenever one of the defendants is brought into this courthouse or before this bench he shall be escorted by one deputy and one state trooper. At all times each deputy and state policeman who enters the courthouse or provides security at its front entrance shall be in uniform - not tactical gear or civilian clothes - and carry only a pistol and no other weapons. No other individuals, whether they are law enforcement or not, shall be allowed to enter this courthouse under arms. This Court also orders that the defendants be brought before the General District Court in the next two hours for their pretrial hearings."

With that Judge Isom stalked from the bench back to his chambers. He had never even allowed all the people in the courtroom who were ordered to their feet when the judge came in to sit down. Yusif was watching from the back of the courtroom and he was pretty sure that if the door to the judge's office had been without a spring the judge would have slammed it behind him.

The State Police got the cars headed to the jails turned around and found an adequate number of troopers to set things up as the judge ordered. To make it work, the first sergeant actually served as the bailiff. By five, the defendants started being brought before Judge Fleming, who stayed late so that things could be done as Judge Isom had ordered. The troopers would drive one defendant into town, have his pretrial hearing, and then drive him out of town as the next defendant was being driven in. Yusif and Brad sat through every hearing and watched as a defense attorney stepped forward for each defendant and Yusif repeated by rote that the Commonwealth opposed any bond.

By six forty-five it was all done. Brad stepped out to talk to the media, giving some sort of general statement about how the citizens of Barnette County believed in law and order. As soon as the press dispersed Brad went straight to his car and left. Yusif stayed in the office, but he did not stay to do any work. He just sat there playing bloon tower defense on his computer and thinking dark thoughts until he was sure that everyone was gone. When he finally got up to leave he swore that he was going to leave this damned county and not return a second before he had to on Monday.

1 comment:

Matt K. said...

I love Bloon Tower Defense! Can't let those bloons get by. Hate the camo-lead bloons.