Polygamy police state in Colorado City, Hildale: When dialing 911 brings trouble

St. George News, Utah/September 22, 2014

By Cami Cox Jim

Colorado City, Arizona -- Workers replaced the window glass in the office of a Mohave County victims advocate in Colorado City last Monday – a window that was shot on Sept. 4.

Kim Nuttall was attending court the day the shooting occurred; if she had been in her office, the shot that broke the window could have killed her.

“If I had been sitting at my desk it would’ve hit the back of my head,” Nuttall said.

An investigator from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, who routinely travels to Colorado City, told Nuttall the shot appeared to have come from a .22-caliber rifle, a B.B. gun or a pellet gun.

“He said, ‘This is not a rock (that broke the window). You need to pack your stuff and get out of the office,’” Nuttall said.

Retaliation against government workers is nothing new in the border towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah – communities commonly known to locals as “Short Creek” and primarily founded and governed by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“When you’re raised to believe the government is evil and the government is the problem, anybody that works for the government is going to be suspect,” Nuttall said.

The shot into Nuttall’s office was fired from a spot that was out of view of the security cameras that monitor the building; whoever fired the shot not only knew where the cameras were, Nuttall said, but took great pains to avoid being recorded by them.

In her nearly 10 years as a victims advocate in the Short Creek area, Nuttall said, she’s had her phones tapped and her office broken into multiple times – particularly when she’s working on a case that strikes a nerve in the community. But having shots fired into her office has taken the retaliation to a whole new level.

“Even though it’s disconcerting to me, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop doing my job,” Nuttall said. “I’m not going to give in to terrorism.”

Who is policing the police?

A longstanding and ongoing problem for residents of the Short Creek community is when an incident occurs, such as shots being fired or some sort of discriminatory action taking place, calling the local marshals for intervention can create more problems than it solves.

“The town marshals have been nothing more or less than the executioners of the (FLDS) church,” Hildale resident Willie Jessop said.

“A hundred percent of their loyalties are pledged to the church leaders,” he added.

Jessop said he knows firsthand about corruption within the local law enforcement; he once served as now-imprisoned FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs’ bodyguard and was part of the FLDS church’s protective detail for many years before Jeffs became a leader over the church. (See ed. note)

“I understood the loyalty conflict between an officer choosing his religion and choosing his job,” Jessop said.

Jessop said the retaliatory action committed against excommunicated and disenfranchised FLDS members didn’t begin until the child sexual abuse perpetrated by Jeffs started coming to light. The marshals then became a tool for subduing and hiding Jeffs’ illegal and immoral acts, Jessop said; families didn’t even know Jeffs had raped their daughters.

“We realized this isn’t about religious persecution – this is about the rape of little girls,” Jessop said.

“Since it became known that Warren (Jeffs) was guilty of having sex with 12-year-olds, that’s what drove the desperation of why we’re having this crisis,” he added.

Jessop said he and others began taking a stand against the corruption when they realized what Jeffs was doing. Subsequently, Jessop resigned from the FLDS church.

Now that Jessop is no longer loyal to the FLDS religion, he said he and his family members have become victims of the discrimination and retaliation themselves – from their vehicles and properties being vandalized to individual family members being targeted for their non-FLDS stance.

“We constantly face the retaliation of other church members against us,” Jessop said.

And the Jessops aren’t the only ones who feel the heat of falling out of faith with the FLDS church.

In July, a historic event took place in Short Creek as a class reunion was hosted for members of the last classes to graduate from the former Colorado City Academy. Hundreds of people who, for years, were not welcome in the FLDS community were invited back to their hometown and traveled from as far away as Missouri and North Dakota to come home – many of them for the first time since they left.

During one reunion event, as friends and relatives met for the first time in decades, the local marshals crashed the party on an alleged noise complaint. Local resident Harvey Dockstader, one of the organizers of the reunion, became the brunt of police brutality, having his arm twisted behind his back so forcibly that it badly injured his shoulder  –  allegedly because he helped orchestrate an event that brought shunned FLDS members back to the community.

“They tore him up very bad,” Jessop said. “It was in total retaliation of the church.”

A week after the reunion, during an interview about Jessop’s new bed and breakfast – built inside a compound originally constructed for the imprisoned Warren Jeffs – Dockstader’s arm was still in a sling and he was speaking with Jessop about medical bills related to the officer-caused injury.

“We become subject to some of the most horrific crimes of corrupt law enforcement that you would find in any Third World country,” Jessop said.

Jessop said the local marshals not only retaliate against those who are seen as oppositional to the FLDS church, but they have a history of trumping up false charges against people, as well. A high percentage of the false charges are ultimately dismissed, Jessop said, but the ordeals nonetheless leave their intended mark.

“The family still goes through the drama of being arrested or harassed by the officers,” Jessop said.

“It’s become such a crisis in the community,” he added.

The assertion that corruption abounds in the local Marshal’s Office was validated by former Chief Marshal Helaman Barlow earlier this year when he detailed wrongdoing in the Marshal’s Office and local city governments during court proceedings in a discrimination case against the cities.

No more discrimination?

Sept. 4, the day Nuttall’s office was shot at, was also the day an Arizona judge denied a motion filed in June by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office that sought to disband the Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office altogether and turn the towns’ law enforcement entirely over to the Mohave County and Washington County sheriffs’ offices. Instead of disbanding the marshals, the judge ordered that, concerning housing and utilities matters, the twin city governments must not discriminate, intimidate, threaten or retaliate against anyone based on religion for a period of 10 years; the towns must also not discriminate or retaliate against anyone who was involved in Cooke v. Colorado City – a lawsuit filed against the cities for refusing to provide utility services to local residents Ronald and Jinjer Cooke, allegedly because they were not FLDS church members and because Ronald Cooke had a disability.

In an ironic twist, Sept. 4 was additionally the day – just as the judge was ordering the towns not to discriminate based on religion or involvement in the Cooke case – that longstanding local law enforcement officer Barlow was fired from his post by the cities.

Barlow, who has openly left the FLDS church, became a whistleblower of sorts in April when, in exchange for limited immunity, he detailed corruption in the Marshal’s Office and local city government in a deposition and also admitted under oath that, as chief marshal, he had lied multiple times when giving testimony in the Cookes’ discrimination case.

Jessop said those working in the Marshal’s Office must constantly choose between loyalty to the FLDS church and properly carrying out their jobs – and loyalty to the church predominantly wins out. Those who take action contrary to the church’s wishes can find themselves, like Barlow, out of a job no matter how many years they’ve served in law enforcement.

“When (Barlow) tried to make corrective measures … he was just another victim of how systemically the department is evil,” Jessop said.

“He wouldn’t declare his loyalties to Warren Jeffs, and it got him fired,” he added.

At the time this report is published, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has not responded to multiple phone calls seeking comment about the judge’s dismissal of the motion to disband the Marshal’s Office.

Though having the Marshals remain in force for the present is viewed by many in the community as a devastating step backward, Jessop said he’s confident the battle has only begun and the government will continue making strides forward to end religious discrimination in the Short Creek community.

“The government can’t sit and let Warren Jeffs run his vendetta against the people using our local marshals,” Jessop said. “The people are left in a destitute situation, where they call 911 to get help only to face retaliation over and over and over again from the local marshals.”

“(The government) has had hundreds of complaints on it,” he added. “They know these boys are corrupt.”

Jessop said it’s a sad irony that FLDS members, who have experienced firsthand the pain of religious persecution, would commit atrocities against others in the name of religion.

“I think that’s been my greatest personal heartbreak,” Jessop said, “that this society of all societies knew what it was like to be persecuted and discriminated against, only to turn around and do that to its own people.”

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