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Five Die in Wrong House Raid

The very angry and very brave Mike Kemp gave me the idea for this one. He's the Gadsden Minuteman who videotaped and exposed the blatant racism at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms "Good Old Boys" rally. For that act of principle and courage, he ended up being targeted by law enforcement, eventually subjected to a warrantless raid, and sent to jail for using medical marijuana.

Mike had just gotten out of jail and was in a bitter mood when the events occurred that inspired this story.

Adventures in Real Life #36: How It Would Have Gone Down Had the Feds Been in Charge

In Real Life:

On Sunday, August 31, 1997 five freelance bounty hunters clad in ski masks and body armor invaded a home in Phoenix, Arizona, looking for a bail jumper. Only problem: It was the wrong house. The bounty hunters shot a couple to death when the groggy residents tried to defend themselves. Another woman living in the home was handcuffed and hit over the head with a Mag-Lite. All this happened while three children watched. The bounty hunters were promptly charged with murder.

I wondered what would have happened if it had been federal agents, rather than private citizens, who performed the botched raid...


Feds Claim Raid Reveals Unknown Crime Ring

By Claire Wolfe
For the SacredBull News Service

PHOENIX -- Federal agents wearing black ski masks and looking for a bail jumper kicked in the front door of a house Sunday. The raid, which began as a case of mistaken identity, ended with five dead and three wounded, police said.

The pre-dawn raid was the work of a multi-jurisdictional task force, lead by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. A total of 300 agents from 47 different federal and state law enforcement agencies took part in the operation, code named "Liberty Bell."

Local police said they do not believe the bail jumper was in the house and may never have lived there. "It's still a mystery why they went to that house," said Phoenix police Sgt. Justin Littlechap.

"It's a lucky thing we did enter that house," noted ATF Bureau Chief Herman Goebbels at a press conference shortly after the event. "Although we did not find the fugitive we were looking for, we discovered that the building was the headquarters of a previously unsuspected child pornography ring." He added that evidence of the crime ring's activities would be produced "in due time," but that it was "too sensitive" for immediate release.

Three of the agents were given awards yesterday, including one who shot a six year old who was menacing the officers with a high-capacity, automatic assault weapon. Two of the honored men were hospitalized with gunshot wounds, apparently inflicted by the homeowner. ATF authorities said they were considering promoting two others.

The dead included homeowner Todd Underfoot, 33, his wife Spring Back Underfoot, 32, their housemate, Luisa Life, 46, and two of the Underfoot's three children.

All died of gunshot wounds. Underfoot and his wife were apparently shot when they began firing as the masked agents kicked in their bedroom door.

"It was attempted homicide against federal officers, pure and simple," Goebbels asserted. "No innocent homeowner would have reacted with such unprovoked violence against legitimately constituted authority. Our agents properly identified themselves while breaking in the front door and there is no excuse for the reaction on the part of these gang members."

Asked why the raid took place at 4:00 a.m., Joseph Goering, ATF agent in charge, explained, "To catch the criminals in their maximum state of disorientation."

Further evidence gathering will be hampered by the fact that the house burned down after the raid, evidently a last-ditch act of arson committed by the homeowner, just before he succumbed to his 247 bullet wounds.

"We are confident, however," Goebbels asserted, "that we will find the remains of their meth lab in the ruins."

Asked if he didn't mean additional evidence of their child pornography ring, Goebbels hastened to clarify, "Both, of course, I mean, both. This ring was involved in multiple criminal activities."

In Sunday's shooting, the agents were looking for an out-of-state bail jumper. Phoenix police said 117 agents held Life and the three children at gunpoint while others kicked down the door to the couple's bedroom.

Not all of the deaths were at the hands of the raiding agents. Life apparently shot herself and the Underfoot children in a ghastly murder-suicide committed before the eyes of several dozen horrified agents, who were unable to stop her.

Asked about earlier reports that Life had been handcuffed, with her hands behind her back, and semi-conscious from a blow with a Mag-Lite at the time, Goering noted, "We have preliminary information indicating that Ms. Life once worked as a circus acrobat. And we are virtually certain that pharmacological tests will reveal that she was high on PCP at the time of her rampage. Some of these people on drugs can exhibit virtually superhuman abilities when agitated."

At the press conference, representatives of the ATF, FBI and DEA displayed the arsenal of high-powered weapons seized before fire destroyed the group's compound. These included several examples of deadly long-range, bolt-action sniper rifles and the bright orange, "jet-blaster" type hydraulic weapon allegedly yielded by the criminally hardened six year old. Goebbels pointed out its full-quart capacity to the stunned reporters.

An FBI agent on the scene also demonstrated that the high-tech resins used in the manufacture of the hydraulic weapon rendered the assault weapon invisible to airport metal detectors. The implications for international terrorism were clear.

Agents David Breakin, 45, of the ATF and Michael Slanders, 40, of the DEA were hospitalized in stable condition with gunshot wounds to their arms, inflicted by the awakened gang members. Both had worn body armor. Goebbels said they would be formally presented their awards for heroism upon release from the hospital.

Agents Chuck Scaragain and Lon Horribleuchi are being considered for promotion "for their roles in having planned and executed the raid."

Asked if this was not somewhat unorthodox, given that the task force invaded the wrong house, Goebbels noted, "Every one in America is guilty of something, so it doesn't really matter what house we raid, does it? And in this case, through our unusually astute planning, we destroyed a notorious bomb-making ring that evidence will show was plotting to blow up at least 16 federal buildings in the American heartland."

Asked if he didn't mean a child pornography ring or a drug manufacturing operation, Goebbels clarified, "All three. The depravity of these people...who were living in that neighborhood, masquerading as normal, decent human beings...is unimaginable."

A source who asked not to be named leaked the information that residents of the compound had stockpiled several bottles of chlorine bleach and ammonia under their kitchen sink. Chlorine and ammonia are bomb-making components well known to members of underground political organizations.

The source also noted that gang members had stockpiled food "because of some vague, paranoid belief about a coming confrontation." The source added the occupants of the compound may have been members of a mysterious survivalist cult identified only as "LDS."

During the raid, neighbors of the Underfoots gathered outside the compound. One neighbor was arrested for interfering with a law enforcement operation and practicing law without a license when she was heard to remark, "Don't people have Fourth Amendment rights anymore?"

Phoenix police recently issued a department policy reminding officers that they cannot interfere or intervene on federal agents' business, except when given permission by the federal agencies themselves. "Shit," one anonymous Phoenix policeman explained, "You think we want to mess with those guys and get ourselves shot in the back or something? No way! Our mamas didn't raise no fools!"

Bail-jumping fugitive John O. Buyer remains at large. He is reportedly charged with several counts of federal fraud and conspiracy for misprinting his name as John Q. Buyer on an ATF gun-purchasing form.

In Washington, ATF Director John McGaw announced that his agency and the FBI are jointly investigating possible links between the dead gang members and shadowy, racist militia organizations.

McGaw said he expects the group's connections with violent right-wingers to become clear once agents have had a chance to interview the ringleader and sole surviving member of the cult, 12-year-old Patricia Henry Underfoot, who is currently under guard in the intensive care unit of Mercy Hospital with gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest, shoulder arms, legs, torso, big toe, earlobe and left ../index finger.

Under RICO statutes, civil forfeiture proceedings have already begun against the property of the former Underfoot compound.

My thanks to Mike Kemp for inspiring the idea, and Todd Gillespie for nagging me into writing it. Neither of them shares any blame for the content, which is solely my fault.



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