HILDALE – Less than a month after a district judge denied a motion filed by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to disband the Colorado City, Arizona/Hildale, Utah, Marshal’s Office for allegations of corruption, the local marshals, having avoided impending disbandment, are now allegedly turning up the heat of discrimination in these Utah/Arizona border communities known to locals as “Short Creek.”
A string of incidents occurring in Short Creek since the Marshal’s Office dodged the bullet of disbandment – alleged retaliatory acts committed by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints against ex-FLDS and non-FLDS members – are now being investigated as hate crimes by the FBI, and the Department of Justice has now reportedly become involved, as well.
Local residents are claiming the Marshal’s Office is not only protecting the perpetrators in these incidents but has tampered with evidence in one of the cases.
Sunday, the truck of an ex-FLDS Hildale resident was blown up by explosives. Tuesday, a 16-year-old Hildale boy, a relative of the man whose truck was blown up, was sideswiped by a passing truck while riding his bike, a truck that has allegedly been identified by investigators as being registered to the FLDS church. Earlier this month, another Hildale boy – whose family has also left the FLDS church – was riding a four-wheeler when a truck driving past going the opposite direction allegedly saw the boy, flipped a U-turn, came up behind him and rear-ended his ATV with such force that it sent the boy flying off his four-wheeler and up over the top of the assailant truck, landing in the roadway behind it. In Colorado City on Sept. 4, a person or persons not yet apprehended by local law enforcement shot the office window of a victims advocate who works for Mohave County.
“Are they going into mass hate crimes?” Hildale resident Christopher Jessop said. “Are we having a Waco going on here?”
Tuesday afternoon at approximately 4 p.m., Jessop’s 16-year-old son, Randy Jessop, was riding his bike to the Border Store, a gas station in Hildale, when Randy said a passing truck saw him, swerved and deliberately hit him.
Randy Jessop said:
I realized there was this car behind me. I just figured it was another truck driving by. I turned around to look behind me and this thing was right behind me, coming up behind me. I went off the road a little bit more and it come up right beside me and swerved over like it was trying to scare me again, like it usually does, and it hit my handlebars and I went off the road and hit this tire (that was laying on the side of the road) and face-planted on the sidewalk.
After sideswiping Randy and causing him to crash, the truck left the scene.
Randy suffered road rash and severe lesions to his face and shoulder as a result of the incident and had to be taken to the emergency room to undergo multiple tests, including a CT scan, to determine the severity of any internal damage. Doctors concluded he had suffered a bad concussion as a result of the incident, his mom, Jesseca Jessop, said.
When she found out what had happened to her son, Jesseca Jessop called 911. When the local marshals arrived, she said Randy gave the two officers a very detailed description of the truck that had hit him; the truck had very darkly tinted windows and a Chevy emblem in the headache rack.
“It’s the only truck in town that looks like that,” Jesseca Jessop said.
When the marshals returned two hours later, she said they brought back photos of trucks for Randy to identify that looked nothing like the vehicle he had described to them. She said the marshals also tried to coerce Randy into recanting his story.
“They tried to get him to say that he just crashed – that he was making it all up,” she said.
While the marshals had been out investigating – Jesseca Jessop said they spent two hours “pretending to look for the truck” – a neighbor told her after the marshals left her house, the neighbor saw them drive to the site where Randy was hit and begin scuffing their feet across the tire tracks and also move the discarded tire Randy had run into.
“They’re destroying evidence,” Jesseca Jessop said.
Christopher Jessop told his wife it was time to call in the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
“I could tell (the marshals) weren’t going to do anything,” he said.
The sheriff’s deputies arrived while the marshals were still there, and Jesseca Jessop said the marshals weren’t happy about that.
“They don’t like that (interference from an outside agency) because they can’t pull their bull s—,” Christopher Jessop said.
Within 30 minutes, the sheriff’s deputies had located the truck the marshals said they spent two hours unsuccessfully searching for.
Shauna Jones, chief deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said the truck the deputies located, which matched the description Randy Jessop had given them, did have dents and damage that could have corresponded with the hit-and-run, but no evidence was found on Randy’s bike to tie the incident to the truck. A roadblock deputies hit while investigating was they received conflicting stories from those found in possession of the truck about who had been driving it or whether it had been driven at all that day.
“They interviewed and tried to get admissions and weren’t able to,” Jones said.
Jones said the investigation into the incident is still active.
Jesseca Jessop said she was told ownership of the truck has been traced back to the FLDS church and that the truck is not registered to one individual but to the church generically. Christopher Jessop said many FLDS members have turned their property over to the church, making it impossible in cases like this to trace ownership to one person.
Jesseca Jessop said she and Randy spent six hours with FBI investigators the day after the incident occurred and that she has also since been contacted by the Department of Justice about the hit-and-run.
An agent with the St. George FBI office said he could not comment about the case and directed St. George News to the media department of the FBI’s Salt Lake City office. At the time of this publication, the FBI’s media department has not yet responded to phone and email messages regarding the case.
The Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office has not responded to a request for comment about the incident at the time of this publication.
The family of the other local boy involved in a similar hit-and-run earlier this month, who was hit while riding his four-wheeler, has chosen not to press charges, Jesseca Jessop said. Jones, with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said no report about that incident has ever been filed with her office.
Jesseca Jessop said Tuesday’s hit-and-run is not the first time her son has been targeted or physically threatened since the family moved to Short Creek.
“It’s the first time that they’ve actually made contact with him but they’ve made several attempts at trying to run him over or run him down or run him off the road, him and his sisters,” she said.
Randy and his sisters have also borne the brunt of other forms of persecution from local FLDS members.
“They’ve called us names. They’ve thrown rocks at us, water bottles,” Randy said.
Jesseca Jessop said she and her family members are constantly being monitored and harassed by members of the FLDS church. They’ve had people come onto their property and poison their chickens, shoot at their dogs with B.B. guns, shoot at and throw rocks at their horses, turn their horses loose, spin donuts in front of their house and throw up gravel at them, and throw glass bottles into their yard.
“Since this happened (the hit and run against Randy), our whole front yard is covered with glass,” Christopher Jessop said.
Christopher Jessop said he’s worried that as Randy gets older, the local marshals – commonly known to serve the FLDS church first and enforce the law of the United States of America second – will begin trumping up false charges against Randy and trying to pin crimes on him.
“He’s gotta watch his every move,” Christopher Jessop said.
This past weekend, an ex-FLDS relative of the Jessops was also targeted when a currently unknown person or persons blew up his farm truck with explosives. A member of the family, who also used the truck for farming purposes, has declined to comment in detail about the incident at this time, not wishing to compromise investigations into the explosion. But, he said federal investigators he’s spoken with are categorizing this recent string of incidents as terrorist actions because of the Sept. 4 shooting that took place at the victims advocate’s office, which happened on government property.
So why is the Jessop family being targeted? Jesseca Jessop said there are several reasons, and the retaliation against her family has been happening ever since they moved to the Short Creek community just over a year ago.
Christopher Jessop, a known ex-FLDS member, chose to leave the FLDS church when he was 18. His wife has never been part of the church and neither have his children.
“I left on my own. There was no way in hell I was listening to two women fight for the rest of my life,” Christopher Jessop joked.
“Now he just listens to one,” Jesseca Jessop said, laughing.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Christopher Jessop moved his family to the Short Creek area, where he grew up. They were the second family to move into a home left vacant by evictions carried out through the United Effort Plan Trust and the 3rd District Court.
When the Jessops arrived in Hildale to move into their new house, they found a group of FLDS men had camped out in the house to prevent them from taking up residence.
“We had to hire an attorney and go through the whole eviction process to have them evicted,” Jesseca Jessop said.
“(The FLDS church) is not happy that we’re here,” Christopher Jessop said.
He said it was announced in an FLDS church meeting that anybody caught having dealings with his family would be excommunicated. A church member told him about the announcement before church had even ended that day, he said.
“I know they’re trying to run us out of town,” he said.
Not only did Christopher Jessop openly leave the FLDS church and then move his family of outsiders into a home formerly belonging to an active FLDS member, but the Jessop family became further perceived as antagonists when, shortly after moving to Short Creek, they started a nonprofit program to help local residents – the majority of them FLDS members who were in need of food, clothing and other help – essentially giving them another source of aid outside the FLDS church.
“The church was not happy with that,” Christopher Jessop said.
Jesseca Jessop is additionally involved in Safety Net, an outreach program that connects polygamous families with outside help and services, including helping domestic violence victims within the FLDS community and helping those wishing to leave polygamy make the transition to life in the outside world. The Jessops have also been instrumental in helping young men and women leave the FLDS church.
So why stay in a place where such persecution is being leveled at them? Why don’t the Jessops leave Short Creek?
“I love it here,” Christopher Jessop said. “This place isn’t a bad place; it’s the ‘good guys’ (who are bad).”
“I think of Short Creek as being a million-dollar home that’s infested with termites,” Jesseca Jessop said.
The family is here to stay, she said, and persecution isn’t going to drive them out.
“Somebody has got to stand up to them and show the rest of the people not to be afraid, to stand up to these guys,” Jesseca Jessop said.
“You know what we’re going to do?” Christopher Jessop asked. “We’re going to get up tomorrow when the sun comes up – I’ll actually get up before the sun comes up – I’m going to go to work, and when I’m done I’m going to come back home, and if we feel like listening to our music loud we’re going to listen to it loud, and we’re going to be glad we had another day. They ain’t gonna run us off.”
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